Skip to main content

Durkheim Reconsidered

Durkheim Reconsidered

Susan Stedman Jones

ISBN: 978-0-745-61616-2 April 2001 Polity 288 Pages


In Stock



Durkheim is one of the founding fathers of modern sociology and a key figure in the development of social theory. And yet today his work is often misunderstood, since it is commonly viewed through the lens of later authors who used his writings to illustrate certain tendencies in social thought.

Durkheim Reconsidered challenges the common views of Durkheim and offers a fresh and much-needed reappraisal of his ideas. Stedman Jones dismantles the interpretations of Durkheim that remain widespread in Anglo-American sociology and then examines afresh his major works, placing them in their historical and political context. She emphasizes Durkheim's debt to the socialist and republican thought of his contemporaries - and especially to Renouvier who, she argues, had a profound influence on Durkheim's approach.

This book will be recognised as a major reinterpretation of the work of one of the most important figures in the history of sociology and social thought. It will be of great interest to scholars and students in sociology, anthropology and related disciplines.


Chapter 1: The Interpretation of Durkheim: Sociology Contra Durkheim.

Chapter 2: Durkheim as the Theorist of Order and Science.

Chapter 3: Understanding Durkheim in his Time: Historical and Political Considerations.

Chapter 4: Philosophy and the Republic: the Influence of Renouvier.

Chapter 5: Differentiation and the Problems of Modernity.

Chapter 6: Individualism and Socialism?.

Chapter 7: The Science of Facts and Things: Methodological Considerations.

Chapter 8: Society as the "Coefficient of Preservation": the Question of Suicide.

Chapter 9: The Thinking State: Power and Democracy.

Chapter 10: Practical Reason and Moral Order: Morality and Society.

Chapter 11: Belief and the Logic of the Sacred.

Chapter 12: Final Reflections - Durkheim Contra Sociology.

Appendix: Durkheim and Renouvier.


Biographical Sketches.




'Susan Stedman Jones's book is a fiery, evocative attack on old, naive interpretations of Durkheim that have so long dominated the sociological scene. She has done a great service in calling scholars and students to look again at the texts and historical background of this grandmaster. The book further points to the devious paths sociological thought has trodden in recent years, not least in neglecting Durkheim's fundamental ideas. Her stimulating work will inevitably give rise to considerable debate.' W. S. F. Pickering, British Centre for Durkheimian Studies, Oxford

'This book fully lives up to its title. It offers a coherent critique of interpretations of Durkheim that remain widespread in Anglo-American sociology, providing a reassessment that will come as a surprise, even a shock, to many readers.' Willie Watts Miller, University of Bristol

'Together with her previous articles, Stedman Jones' book is beyond all doubt the best and most complete assessment on this topic, often throwing a new light on some puzzles of Durkheimian sociology.' Durkheimian Studies

'Susan Stedman Jones' rich, remarkable book provides a largely new investigation of Durkheim's philosophical background... Durkheim Reconsidered recommends itself to the reader for its wide documentation, method consistency, and clear sometimes even brilliant style.' Durkheimian Studies

"This book stands out to the reader with its documentation, by its coherent methodology and by its clear style of writing which can be described, at times, as brilliant". Giovanni Paoletti, Department of Philosophy, University of Pisa

"Stedman Jones presents a lively, original and appealing thinker for today ... Her text is refreshing and enlightening, ideal for anthropologists, who, as Evans-Pritchard said, could make profitable use of Durkheim's ideas." Journal of The Royal Anthropological Institute

"A book worthy of the highest attention." European Journal of Social Theory

A Offers a major reinterpretation of the work of one of the "founding fathers" of modern sociology
A Criticises the conventional interpretations of Durkheim and shows that they are often based on misleading assumptions
A Will become a standard text in courses on classical social theory and the foundation of modern sociology