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Émile Durkheim: A Biography



Émile Durkheim: A Biography

Marcel Fournier

ISBN: 978-0-745-64645-9 November 2012 Polity 700 Pages

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This book will become the standard work on the life and thought of Émile Durkheim, one of the great founding fathers of sociology. Durkheim remains one of the most widely read thinkers in the social sciences and every student of sociology, anthropology and related subjects must study his now-classic books. He brought about a revolution in the social sciences: the defence of the autonomy of sociology as a science, the systematic elaboration of rules and methods for studying the social, the condemnation of racial theories, the critique of Eurocentrism and the rehabilitation of the humanity of ‘the primitive’. He defended the dignity of the individual, the freedom of the press, democratic institutions and the essential liberal values of tolerance and pluralism. At the same time he was critical of laisser-faire economics and he defended the values of solidarity and community life. In many ways, Durkheim’s rich intellectual heritage has become part of the self-understanding of our time. 

Despite his enormous influence, the last major biography of Durkheim appeared more than 30 years ago. Since then, the opening up of archives and the discovery of manuscripts, correspondence with friends and close collaborators, administrative reports and notes taken by students have all provided a wealth of new material about his life and work. Meticulously documented, Marcel Fournier’s new biography sheds fresh light on Durkheim’s personality and character, his relationship with Judaism, his family life, his relations with friends and collaborators, his political and administrative responsibilities and his political views.

This book will be indispensable to students and scholars throughout the social sciences and will appeal to a wide readership interested in knowing more about the life and work of one of the most original and influential thinkers of the twentieth century.

Myths and Received Ideas
Some Enigmas: New Documents
The Life and Work of Durkheim
Durkheim, Mauss & Co
The Specific Intellectual
Fin de siècle Melancholy: A World Changes
1. A Jewish Education
Respect for the Law and Devotion to the Book
Embroidery: Extra Income
A Humiliating Defeat
Education: A Weapon
2. Ecole Normale Supérieure
The Metaphysician: A Formidable Dialectician
With the Republicans
Against Dilettantism
Towards Rationalism
The Agrégation: A Very Difficult Ordeal
3. ‘Schopen' at the Lycée
Professeur de lycée
The Passion for Knowledge
The Fashion for Pessimism
The Faculties of the Soul. Conscious/Unconscious
On Methodology
Egoism/Altruism: Society
Man is a Sociable Animal
And God É
The Noble Sadness of Research
The Revue philosophique: Towards Sociology
‘Something is not Right'
A Research Programme
4. Travels in Germany
Anthropology and the ‘New Psychology'
‘We Have A Lot to Learn from Germany'
Towards a Positive Science of Ethics
Individual or State?
Back to the Lycée
5. The Bordeaux Years: Pedagogy and the Social Sciences
‘A Large and Happy City'
Pedagogy and the Social Sciences
A Good Marriage
‘What Has to be Done Has to be Done'
New Colleagues
Alfred Espinas: ‘The First to be Drawn to Sociology'
The Bordeaux School
Classes and Lectures
First Course on the Social Sciences
Pedagogy: A Practical Theory
Religion: A Sociological Phenomenon
Forms of Sociability: The Family
Marriage and Inheritance
‘Happiness is Such a Relative Thing'
The Critique of Economics
Long Live The (French) Revolution
A Young German Author: Ferdinand Tönnies
Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Sociologist
A Nephew's Education
6. Individual and Society: The Social Bond. The Doctoral Thesis
Montesquieu and Political Science
The Division of Labour?
Crime and Punishment. Types of Solidarity
‘Long Live Cooperation, Make Room for Individual Disagreements!'
The Struggle for Survival
A Celebration of Work
The Utopia of a World Society
The Soutenance
A Few Misunderstandings
A Message to Socialists ‘Be Clear and United'
7. An Object, A Method and Some Rules
A Position in Paris? The ‘Espinas Affair'
Sociology and Psychology
An Observer in Paris
René Worms: A Tireless Organizer
Allies Amongst The Philosophers?
Célestin Bouglé and the Younger Generation
Some Good Reasons for Writing ‘The Method'
The Normal and the Pathological
The Explanation for the Social Lies in Society
For or Against?
8 1895: The Revelation
‘The Year of Ethics'
New Courses
Reforming the Teaching of Philosophy
A Discovery: The Vital Role of Religion
The ‘Religious Sciences' Section: Sylvain Lévy
Marriage or Cohabitation?
Crime and Mental Health
The International Exhibition of 1895: Popularizing Sociology
A History of Socialism
Sociology and Democracy: Andler Versus Durkheim
A Moral Crisis?
9 Converts: From Suicide to L'Année sociologique
The Nephew's ‘Personal Work'
In Praise of Taine
Suicide, or ‘Rationalist Empiricism'
Alcoholism and Heredity. The Critique of Racism
The Taste for Free Enquiry and The Taste for Learning
In Praise of Marriage and Large Families
The Beneficial Effects of Revolutions and Wars
The Altruism of Lower Societies
The Dangers of Divorce
A World of Emotions
The Case for Decentralization
‘Slashing at Water'
10 L'Année sociologique: Birth of a Team
A Crop of Journals
Plans for a Journal: Negotiations
Making Converts
‘Let Us Set to Work with a Good Heart'
A Moment of Discouragement
‘We Will Do Better Another Time'
Methodical Work
A New Research Programme
Differences of Opinion
Why Simmel?
Incest and the Separation of the Sexes
‘A Good Piece of Work Botched'
11 The Dreyfus Affair and the Defence of Human Rights
‘A Terrible Storm'
The Intellectuals Mobilize
The Stapfer Affair: ‘The Sickening Spectacle of So Much Cowardice'
In Defence of Individualism
Individual Representations and Collective Representations
The Republic versus the Army
12 A Failure?
The Essay on Sacrifice
A Working Holiday
A Specialist Journal
Religious Sociology Takes Priority: The Study of the Sacred
A Failure?
Bouglé on Equality
The Next Volume of L'Année sociologique
Ratzel, Richard and Steinmetz: Three Articles
A Discovery: Spencer and Gillen
Elections to the Collège de France: Gabriel Tarde or Henri Bergson?
13 A Word: Solidarity
Paris 1900: A New Consciousness
Great Scientific Events
Cooperation, Solidarity and Social Education
The Social Role of Universities. People's Universities
Sociology: ‘An Essentially French Science'
‘Ardent Proselytism'
Notes Critiques Ð Sciences Sociales
Liberalism in Crisis? In Search of a Third Way
The Sickness and the Remedy: A Greater Role for Professional Groups
14 L'Année in Crisis
L'Année and Notes Critiques: A Planned Merger
‘We Go On'
The Role of Sociology in Secondary Education
A ‘Provisional' Method
The Année, Volume IV
Birth of the Prison
Bibliographical Work: A New Crisis
A Death Foretold: Mélanie Durkheim
The Inner Sanctum: Henri Hubert and Marcel Mauss at the Ecole pratique
‘A Huge Amount of Work'
From the Aruntas to the Price of Coal
‘Scholarly Cooperation', Or What Speaking Durkheim's Language Means
15 At the Sorbonne
‘At a Standstill'
‘An Outstanding Candidate'
A Painful Change
The New Sorbonne
A Successor in Bordeaux
The Inaugural Lecture
A Great Success
Academic Work is Serious Work
16 Le Grand Manitou and the Totem-Taboo Clan
The Debate with Gabriel Tarde: Sociology and Social Sceince
A Great Debate: Historical Method and Social Science
‘Adorons le Totem, le Grand Manitou'
A New Research Programme: Categories of Thought
The Division of Labour in Society, Revised and Updated
17 The Next Generation
‘Morality is on the Agenda'
Lévy-Bruhl on Morality and the Science of Morals
The Lectures on Moral Education
A Role for Magic
An Essential Tool
The Dreyfus Affair: ‘A Strict Duty to Participate in Public Life'
L'Humanité: A Waste of Time?
Holidays at Last! A New Post?
A New Generation: Georges Bourgin, Maurice Halbwachs, Robert
Hertz, and the Others
From Matrimonial Organization and the Butchery Trade
18 The Evolution of Educational Thought, or Triadic Culture
Knowing and Understanding our Educational Museum
The Reformist and the Scholar: A New Faith
Turning to History, Or The Quest for Origins
A Theory of Change
The ‘Essential Characteristics' of the Education System
The Three Great Ages of Education
Towards a New Curriculum: Studying Man and Studying Nature
Cartesianism, Or The National Temperament
19 Church, State and Fatherland
The Separation of Church and State
Morality Without God: Rebelling Against Tradition
Patriotism or Internationalism? The Critique of Marxism
The Question of Divorce
Worries and Annoyance
A Generation Goes Badly Astray: Bouglé Stands for Election; Mauss
Goes to Russia
L'Année sociologique Vol IX: ‘The Life of Collectivities Is Not As
Simple as That of Birds'
20 A Tenth Anniversary
Enemies and Competitors
Durkheim's Collaborators
Teaching and Juries: Facts!
Disciplinary Conflicts
Another Crisis at the Année. Magic, Death and Castes
A New Balance
An Exclusion Foretold
‘I Certainly Owe a Great Deal to the Germans'
Durkheim at 50: The Légion d'honneur and a Banquet
21 ‘Change the World'
A Durkheimian Stance: The Cahiers du socialiste
Pacifism and Patriotism
‘We Are All Society's Civil Servants'
Divorce. The Woman Question
The Origins of Religion
The End of Religion?
Mauss's La Prière? A Chair at the Collège de France?
Emile, Or The Sense of the Real
Change the World
22 Regent of the Sorbonne
‘A Time for Specific Knowledge and Accurate Methods'
Generational Conflict; Les Jeunes Gens d'aujourd'hui
Regent of the Sorbonne?
Moving House. Commitments on All Sides
The New-Style Année
Ideals and Collective Effervescence
The Methodical Socialization of the Next Generation
Pedagogy: A Practical Theory
23 The Origins of Religious Life
The ‘Totemist School'
Freud on Totem and Taboo
Totemism as Elementary Religion
‘A Sort of Electricity'
A Sociological Theory of Knowledge
The End of Religion?
‘The New Sorbonne's Theology'. Some Strong Objections
The Foreign Reception
24. A Lecture-Course, The Last Année and the End of an Era. Pragmatism.
One Last Année
A Bust and Promotion. Official Recognition
The Fashion for Pragmatism
Pragmatism and Sociology
Bergsonism Versus Sociology. ‘Creative Synthesis'
Religion and Free Thought
‘I Am A Grandfather'
25 Unjustified Aggression
Unjustified Aggression
The University in a Difficult Position
A Response to the ‘Manifesto of German Intellectuals'
Attracting Foreign Students
The Monster Or L'Allemagne au-dessur de Tout
A Letter to Americans
Defending French Science
The (Russian) Jewish Question
26 ‘Thinking of the Same Thing Day and Night
‘Dreadful News'
André's Campaign Or, Self-Abnegation
Lettres aux Français
The Insult
The Last Article: ‘Tomorrow's Politics'
‘The Moral Greatness of France'
Academic Propaganda in America
‘A Last Burst of Energy and A Last Response to the Call of Duty':
‘Introduction to Ethics'
‘Better Die Than Live Like This'
‘In Memoriam'
27 Epilogue
Signs of the Times
Selected Works by Emile Durkheim
Other Works Consulted

Winner of the 2014 ASA 'History of Sociology Distinguished Scholarly Publication Award

"Fournier's remarkable work of scholarship is a fitting tribute to a man who was an innovative and influential thinker, and who dedicated his entire career to advancing the cause of sociology."
Irish Times

"Definitive … I doubt that we are likely to see another appraisal of Durkheim's life as systematic as Marcel Fournier's very soon. He has given the great man a decent burial."
Literary Review

"A monument of painstaking scholarship. It draws on a rich cache of newly available documents and will be an indispensable source for the foreseeable future."
Times Literary Supplement

"Durkheim comes alive; for that we owe Fournier a debt of gratitude:  Essential"

"This beautifully translated book provides a rich, exhaustive, and exhausting account of Durkheim as one of the central founders of sociology, and of the era of French intellectual and social history in which he lived."
Church Times

"Marcel Fournier sets a new standard for depth of scholarship and vividness of exposition in recovering the life of the founder of sociology. It ranks with the very small number of great intellectual biographies of those who laid down the tracks of modern social thought."
Randall Collins, University of Pennsylvania

"Fournier is the greatest living scholar of French sociology. With this work, he gives us a new Durkheim, a man broiled in the political controversies of his time, an academic patriarch who laid the foundations for a more cultural sociology."
Jeffrey C. Alexander, Yale University

"Marcel Fournier has provided a comprehensive intellectual biography of a key founder of modern sociology: Émile Durkheim. It is an invaluable complement to Steven Lukes’s earlier Émile Durkheim in that it provides in meticulous detail newly available contextual data, particularly of the last period in Durkheim’s life, such as his concern over the fate of Jewish Russian immigrants and the role of the modern university."
Edward A. Tiryakian, Professor Emeritus, Duke University

"Undoubtedly Émile Durkheim, A Biography takes our understanding of the French master to another level."
Sam Pryke, University of Wolverhampton

  • The standard work on the life and thought of Emile Durkheim, written by the world’s leading expert.
  • Analysis of never-before published manuscripts, correspondence and notes provide new insights into his life and work.
  • Sheds fresh light on Durkheim’s personality and character, his family life, his relationship with Judaism and his political views.
  • This major work will be indispensable to students and scholars throughout the social sciences and will appeal to a wide readership interested in one of the most original thinkers of the twentieth century.