Readings from Emile Durkheim by Prof Kenneth Thompson

By Prof Kenneth Thompson

Emile Durkheim is considered a ''founding father'' of sociology, and is studied in all uncomplicated sociology classes. this useful textbook is a key number of translations from Durkheim's significant works.

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It might be argued that social relations can become fixed without assuming a juridicial form. Sometimes their regulation does not attain this degree of consolidation or precision; but they do not remain indeterminate for that reason: instead of being regulated by law they are regulated by custom. Law, then, reflects only a part of social life, and, consequently, provides us only with incomplete data for resolving the problem. Furthermore, it often happens that custom is not in accord with the law; it is constantly being said that custom tempers the rigours of the law, that it mitigates excessive formalism, and sometimes even that it is inspired by a completely different spirit.

Labriola, Essais sur la conception matérial-iste de l’histoire, Revue philosophique, 44 (1897), pp. 645–65. We think it a fertile idea that social life must be explained, not by the conception of it created by those who participate in it, but by profound causes which escape awareness; and we also think that these causes must principally be sought in the way in which associated individuals are grouped. It even seems to us that it is on this condition, and on this condition only, that history can become a science and that sociology can, consequently, exist.

It is a rule of method, not a law from which one is authorized to deduce important consequences, either theoretical or practical. Not only is the Marxist hypothesis unproved, but it is contrary to facts which seem well established. Sociologists and historians tend more and more to meet in the confirmation that religion is the most primitive of all social phenomena. From it, by successive transformations, have come all the other manifestations of collective activity: law, ethics, art, science, political forms, and so on.

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