EMILE DURKHEIM: Basic sociological concepts
Book1, Chp 1: 'The method of determining this function'
In this chapter, Durkheim asks what the division of labor (DOL) in society is. First, he states that since the DOL increases both the reproductive capacity and skill of the workman, it is the necessary condition for the intellectual and material development in societies (12). However, the DOL also has a moral character which is more important. It can create a feeling of solidarity between two or more people (17).
To explain how the DOL contributes to feelings of solidarity, Durkheim (DH) uses the simple example of a married couple. He claims that if the DOL between the sexes were reduced to a certain point, material life would disappear, only to leave behind sexual relationships. The DOL goes beyond purely economic interests; it constitutes the establishment of a social and moral order sui generis. However, DH admits that in marriage people are also bounded because of their similarities. In this sense, they are bonded outside the DOL (22).
The marriage analogy cannot explain the significance of the DOL for large societies. DH asserts, 'these great political societies cannot sustain their equilibrium save by the specialization of tasks; the DOL is the source...of social solidarity (23). DH states here that Comte was the first to point out that the DOL was something other than a purely economic phenomenon. Comte argued that it was the 'continuous distribution of different human tasks which constitutes the principal element in social solidarity' (23). The DOL has a moral character because the needs which it fulfills for social solidarity, order, and harmony are moral needs (24).
The most visible symbol of social solidarity is law (24). Law is the organization of social life in its most stable and precise form. All the essential varieties of social solidarity are reflected in law (25). We can classify different types of law to see which types of social solidarity correspond to them. Two types of law exist. The first type is repressive (covers penal law), which imposes some type of 'damage' on the perpetrator. The second type is restitutive, which does not necessarily imply any suffering on the part of the perpetrator but consists of restoring the previous relationships which have been disturbed from their normal form (covers civil, communal, procedural law).
Durkheim, Emile. On the Division of Labor in Society.
In this chapter, DH demonstrates how repressive law reflects a society characterized by mechanical solidarity. Penal rules express the basic conditions of collective life for each type of society (32).
The nature of crime 'disturbs those feelings that in any one type of society are to be found in every healthy conscious' (34). in 'Lower forms' of society (those most simply organized) law is almost exclusively penal or repressive (37). Penal law demonstrates the strength of the resistance of collective sentiment to a given crime (38).
The collective conscience is the totality of beliefs and sentiments common to the average members of a society that forms a determinate system with a life of its own (39). Durkheim defines an act as criminal when it offends the collective conscience (39).
It is actually public opinion and opposition which constitutes the crime. An act offends the common consciousness not because it is criminal, but it is criminal because it offends that consciousness. A crime is a crime because we condemn it (40). All crimes floe directly or indirectly from the collective conscience (43).
The role of an authority with power to govern is to ensure respect for collective practices and to defend the common consciousness from its 'enemies.' In lower societies, this authority is greatest where the seriousness of the crime weighs the heaviest. Here the collective consciousness posses the most power (43).
DH argues that in antiquity, people punished for the sake of punishment. However, nowadays society punishes in order to instill fear in potential criminals (46). Yet, punishment has still remained an act of vengeance and expiation (atonement). What society avenges, and what the criminal must expiate, is the 'outrage to morality' (47). It is the attack upon society that is repressed by punishment.
Punishment is a 'reaction of passionate feeling, graduated in intensity, which society exerts through the mediation of an organized body over those of its members who have violated certain rules of conduct' (52). Punishing crime sustains the common consciousness.
Two consciousnesses exist within humans: one which represents individual personalities and the other which represents the collectivity (61). The force which is shocked by crime is the result of the most vital social similarities and its effect is to maintain the social cohesion that arises from these similarities (61).
Punishment publicly demonstrates that the sentiments of the collectivity are still unchanged (despite the deviant ways) of the offender and thusthe injury that the crime inflicted on society is made good. In fact, the primary intent of punishment is to affect honest people (63).
In this chapter, Durkheim shows that a social solidarity exists because a certain number of states of consciousness are common to all members of the same society. This is the solidarity which repressive law embodies.
Durkheim, Emile. On the Division of Labor in Society
To start his discussion of restitutory law which corresponds to the organic state of society, DH contrasts it to repressive law. Whereas repressive law corresponds to the 'center of common consciousness,' restitutory sanctions either constitute no part at all of the collective consciousness, or subsist in it weakly. Second, whereas repressive law tends to stay diffused throughout society, restitutory law works through more specialized bodies: ie, courts, magistrates, and lawyers (69-70).
Despite the removed role of restitutory law from society, society still intervenes in restitutory sanctioning. The formation of a contract directly concerns the parties involved: nonetheless, if a contract has a binding force, it is society which confers that force. If society does not give its blessing to the obligations that have been contracted, then these obligations are reduced to only moral promises. Hence the presence of society in restitutory law, although not necessarily felt, is nonetheless essential.
Part of restitutory law, the corpus of real rights (the right to property and mortgage), corresponds to negative solidarity. Negative solidarity can consist of links between persons and things. However, relationships between people, though in no way 'real,' can also express negative solidarity. This occurs when the relationships are created to prevent or repair damage. These relationships do not imply co-operation (74). Hence, the rules relating to real rights form a definite system whose function is not to link the different parts of society together, but to clearly mark the barriers which separate them.
Negative solidarity is actually only possible where positive solidarity is present. for a man to recognize that others have rights, he must limit his own. This 'mutual limitation' is only realizable in a spirit of understanding and harmony. To need peace, men must already be united in a bond of sociability (different from Hobbes).
Aside from 'real' rights which DH considers ultimately expressive of negative solidarity, the rest of restitutory law (domestic law, contractual law, communal law, procedural law)expresses a positive cooperation which derives essentially from the DOL (77). For instance, civil law (adoption, divorce, etc)determines how various family functions are allocated and expresses the solidarity that unites the members of the family as a result of the domestic DOL (78). The relationship of the DOL to contractual law is similar. Contracts typically involve reciprocal obligations that involve co-operation.
Law plays a part in society analogous to the nervous system in an organisms. The system regulates the various body functions so they work together in harmony. The nervous system thus expresses the degree of concentration that the organism has reached as a result of the physiological DOL. Likewise, we can ascertain the measure of concentration that a society has reached through the social DOL, according to the development of cooperative law with its restitutory sanctions.
There are two types of positive solidarity. The first kind, mechanical solidarity, links the individual to society without any intermediary. Society is organized collectively and is composed of beliefs common to all members of the group. The bond which unites the individual with society is completely analogous to that which links the thing to the person. The individual consciousness depends on the collective consciousness.
In the second kind of solidarity, organic solidarity, the society is a system of different functions united by definite relationships (83). This brings about the DOL. Here each individual must have a sphere of action and a personality which is his own. Individuality grows at the same time as the parts of society. Society becomes more effective at moving in concert though at the same time each of its elements has more movements that are peculiarly its own.
Durkheim, Emile. On the Division of Labor in Society
The preponderance of repressive law over cooperative law must be greater when the collective type of solidarity is more pronounced and the DOL more rudimentary. yet to the degree that tasks become specialized, the balance between society and the type of law becomes upset and begins to change (88).
The more primitive a society is, the more resemblances there are between its members. By contrast, members of advanced, 'civilized' societies are quite distinguishable from one another (89). Organic similarities correspond to psychological similarities between members of primitive societies. Furthermore, members of advanced societies are increasingly organically and psychologically different. Diversity becomes greater as types become more developed (91). Hence, the higher the social type, the more developed the DOL.
The two forms of law Durkheim distinguishes preceding this chapter vary at diverse levels on the social scale. In the lowest societies, the state of law seems wholly repressive. DH shows from the Pentateuch (ancient Hebrew law) that cooperative and restitutory law amounted to little in primitive societies (93). In fact, the whole society under Hebrew law appeared repressive. Society insisted on expiation and not mere reparation (94). Repression dominates the entire corpus of law in lower societies because religion (repressive in nature) permeates all legal activity (94).
Although repressive law has not diminished in importance in modern times, restitutory law has expanded greatly and has grown more complex with the development of society (97). Yet, contractual law (procedural/restitutory)is still not entirely separated from penal (repressive law), because often the refusal to comply with a contract results in a fine (97).
However, repressive and restitutory law still vary fairly directly with the degree of society's development. Repressive law, typically involving sanctions for crimes against the whole community is common in lower, mechanical societies. law is simply an expression of morals. Where acts of violence are frequent, they are tolerated. their criminal character is in inverse proportion to their frequency. Thus, in lower societies crimes against the individual are common and placed on the lower rung of the penal ladder. Instead, crimes against the community take priority. This is because in lower societies the evolution of the collective consciousness is widespread and strong, while the DOL has not yet taken place (99).
Durkheim, Emile. On the division of Labor in Society
Durkheim bases this detailed discussion of organic solidarity and contracts on a dispute against Spencer. Spencer claims that industrial solidarity is spontaneous and that there is no need for a coercive apparatus to produce or maintain it. Social harmony is simply established of its own accord. Durkheim asserts that, were this the case, the sphere of social action would diminish greatly because it would no longer be needed except to enforce negative solidarity (149). This is not the case.
Spencer also argues that the normal form of exchange is contract. For this reason, the extent of central authority diminishes. As freedom of action increases, contracts become more general. This general social contract requires the free agreement of human wills and is irreconcilable with the DOL.
DH states that this type of spontaneous, general social contract has never existed. Societies are spontaneously contractual only to the extent that an individual chooses to remain in the society in which he was born, and hence he abides by that society's rules. For Spencer, society would be no more than the establishment of relationships between individuals exchanging the products of their labor without any social action intervening to regulate that exchange (152).
Durkheim disputes Spencer by claiming that social intervention is on the rise. the legal obligations which society imposes on its members are becoming more and more complex. restitutory law is growing. If social intervention no longer has the effect of imposing certain uniform practices on everybody, it consists more in defining and regulating the special relationship between the different social functions (153).
Spencer would answer that not every kind of control has decreased, just positive control. Durkheim counters that positive control is far from disappearing; in fact, restitutory law is continually growing (154).
[negative control = regulations which make a person refrain from acting e.g., do not help a farmer with his crop, simply prevent him from stealing his neighbor's.]
[positive control = regulations which make a person act eg,impose a certain method of farming upon a farmer]
Durkheim next states that although Spencer is correct in claiming that contractual relationships are multiplied as society is divided up, he has failed to note that non-contractual relationships are developing at the same time (155). Durkheim argues that 'private law,' typically contractual, is really quite public. For instance, marriage and adoption, although private matters, were formerly endorsed by the church and are now endorsed by civil authority (155). As domestic obligations become more numerous, they tend to take on a private character.
The role played by contract is continually decreasing, and social control over the way obligations are regulated is increasing. This is due to the progressive disappearance of segmentary organization. Everything segmentary is increasingly absorbed into larger society.
The contracts that remain are entirely removed from the sphere of individual negotiation and are submitted to the regulatory force of society. contractual law exists to determine the legal consequences of our acts which we have not settled beforehand. It expresses the normal conditions for attaining equilibrium and constrains us to respect obligations for which we have not contracted. it is the role of society to determine what contractual conditions are capable of being executed, and if necessary, to restore them to their normal form (162). And just as society plays a role in shaping contracts, contracts play a role in shaping society. An extensive network of relationships which contribute to social solidarity can stem from contracts.
Durkheim also disputes Spencer's idea that exchange of information takes place freely on the market place without a need for a regulating apparatus. Using a biological analogy, Durkheim insists that the 'sympathetic nerve system of society must include, apart from a system of transmission paths, truly regulatory organs which amplify or moderate stimuli according to need (165). The state's role as regulator becomes increasingly larger and diverse the higher the type of society (167).
The growth of government is attributable to the progress of the DOL and to the process of transformation from segmentary societies to organized societies. First, the central organism faced with less resistance from the segmented forces, begins to develop and become more powerful. The local organs, instead of preserving their individuality, come to merge into the central mechanism (168-9). As a society becomes more and more organically organized, disturbances even of a general character begin to have repurcussions on higher centers, which then become obliged to intervene (170).
Social life is derived from a dual source: the similarity of individual consciousnesses and the social DOL (172).
The similarity of consciousnesses gives rise to rules, which under the threat of repressive measures, impose uniform beliefs and practices. The more pronounced the similarity, the more completely social life is mixed up with religious life (172).
On the other hand, the DOL gives rise to legal rules that determine the nature of a divided up society, but punishment for law breakers in this case involves only reparative measures which lack any expiatory character (172). In organic society, members' dependence on the state continues to grow. As a result, they are continually reminded of their common solidarity.
Thus DH argues that altruism is not Spencer's conception of an ornament to social life, but it is the fundamental basis of social life. Every society is a moral society, because men cannot cohabitate without agreeing and cooperating. Hence, even societies characterized by organic solidarity and the DOL are moral because cooperation has an intrinsic morality. this morality grows as the individual personality grows stronger (as opposed to in mechanical solidarity when morality depends on common sentiment) (173-4).
There are 'two great currents of social life.' The first has origins in social similarityand is segmentary. it gradually becomes overshadowed by the second type of society, which is composed of individual differences and organic cooperation. Nonetheless, the segmentary structure never completely disappears (174).
Durkheim, Emile. On the Division of Labor in Society.
In this chapter, DH explains the causes of the DOL. First, the segmentary organization of society must recede. The segments lose their individuality and they coalesce so that the 'social substance' is free to enter upon new combinations. Social life becomes more general and relationships become more numerous. Individuals who were formerly separated from each other draw together and engage in active exchanges (moral or dynamic density) (201).
The DOL is in direct proportion to the moral density of society. (Moral
density also increases with the growth of physical density). the increase
of social density can occur in three ways:
Although societies can increase in volume (absolute size), they do not necessarily increase in density. A society which grows larger but does not increase its social contacts can remain segmentary and not evolve into a division of labor (204).The growth and condensation of societies does not permit a greater DOL, but they necessitate it.
Spencer claims that the variety of environments in which individuals live channels them to specialize in different paths of labor (eg: seashore ---]fisherman). If this specialization increases with the size of societies, it is because the internal differences increase at the same time. Durkheim asks however, is this diversity alone sufficient to bring about the DOL (206)? If such differences make the DOL possible, they do not impose that division. WHY do men specialize (208)?
Labor become increasingly divided as societies grow in density not because of external circumstances, but because the struggle for existence becomes more strenuous (208). Men differentiate their specialties in order to decrease competition and to coexist (DH draws a comparison to Darwin's law of animal differentiation --]survival) (209). Hence, any concentration in the social mass necessarily determines the progress of the DOL (210).
To the extent that the social constitution is segmentary, each segment has its own organs that are kept at a distance from similar organs by social partitions. but as these partitions disappear with the advancement of society, the segments begin to struggle to substitute each other. This struggle eventually diminishes, resulting in specialization. Thus higher societies make room for all their members (213). humans specialize and increase the DOL in order to survive in new conditions of existence. Greater economic productivity is merely a consequence of the DOL, and not a cause or motivation (217).
The DOL must be carried out between members of a society that is already 'constituted.' (Those people facing competition who are not already in a bounded society will simply flee each other.) The DOL actually causes the activities which it differentiates to converge and brings people closer together (217). For this to occur, the members of society must not only be liked materially, but they must have moral ties (218). Thus, organic society must arise from a mechanical society which already has a structure of collective beliefs. (this is directly opposite to Spencer's theory that a society is produced by cooperation. DH argues that cooperation necessarily supposes the pre-existence of society (219).
For the DOL to function, groups which apparently perform distinct tasks must actually intermingle and be absorbed into one another (221).
Durkheim, Emile. On the DOL in Society
In very simple societies, members can easily replace each other in
tasks. Comte and Spencer would argue that in higher societies, as social
organization is perfected, it becomes more and more impossible for members
to switch out of roles. However, DH disagrees. He claims that the phenomena
of substitution is also observable in even the highest levels of society
Spencer purports that the individual has every interest in establishing
relationships which serve him alone. This activity shapes society, and
social progress consists solely of improving these relationships for
the maximization of individual ends.
Durkheim, Emile. On the DOL in Society
The DOL is typically a normal phenomenon, but from time to time it
enters a pathological state (291), In certain points of the social organism,
certain functions are not adjusted to one another. As labor becomes
increasingly divided up, these phenomena become more frequent .(eg:
bankruptcies, commercial crises, hostility between labor and capital).
Durkheim, Emile. On the DOL in Society
For the DOL to create social solidarity, it is not enough that everyone
have a task -- the task must be agreeable to him. If the DOL produces
unrest, it is because the distribution of social functions does not
correspond to the distribution of natural abilities. Constraint binds
people to their functions, and only a troubled form of solidarity can
Durkheim, Emile. The DOL in Society
The last abnormal form of the DOL occurs when the 'organs' of the
system do not function smoothly and continuously together to furnish
efficient production of social solidarity. Although the DOL might be
highly developed, it is very poorly integrated. This does not always
occur because there is a lack of a regulatory organ, but because the
regulator does not distribute work in such a way that each individual
is kept sufficiently busy to increase the functional activity of every
Intro. 'Subject of our Study: Religious Sociology and the Theory of Knowledge.'
According to DH, a religious system is most primitive when it is found in a society with the simplest form of organization, and when it is possible to explain the religious system without using any element borrowed from a previous religion. The study of simple religions shows us an essential and permanent aspect of humanity, as well as leads to an understanding of the religious nature of man (13). At the foundation of all systems of beliefs there are a number of fundamental representations, concepts, and ritual attitudes which, despite the diversity of their forms, have the same objective significance and fulfill the same functions everywhere (17).
Primitive civilizations offer privileged cases of the study of religion. These societies are characterized by simplicity and conformity of thought and conduct. The religion Durkheim will analyze in this book is foreign to any idea of a god or divinity. The 'forces' to which the rites are addressed are very different from those in modern religions, yet they aid us in understanding modern religions (19). When primitive religious beliefs are systematically analyzed, the principal categories of understanding are found . In fact, they are a product of religious thought (22).
Religion is eminently social. Religious representations express collective realities. Religious rites are a manner of acting which arises from assembled groups and are destined to excite certain mental states in these groups. The categories of understanding are of religious origin; they are social affairs and the product of collective thought (22). these categories include time, specie, class, force, personality, and efficacy (23-5).
DH states that society is the highest representation of nature. 'The social realm is a natural realm which differs from the others only by greater complexity' (31). However, nature does not differ radically from one case to another. The relations that exist between things are essentially similar across realms (31). Although the categories of time, space, class, cause and personality are constructed out of social elements, their social origin points to the fact that they have a foundation in the realm of nature (32).
Thus DH unites two opposing viewpoints in his theory of knowledge (the categories of understanding). The apriorists believe that knowledge is made up of empirical fact and representation. On the other hand, the empiricists only study positive knowledge. DH claims that the theory of knowledge (wherein the categories of thought have a dual social and natural nature) combines all the principles of the apriorists and the empiricists. According to him, the categories of understanding are no longer single empirical facts but are 'complex instruments of [human thought]' (32).
In this chapter DH also postulates on the dual nature of man. There are two beings in man: an individual whose foundation is in his body and whose circle of activity is very limited, and a social being which represents the intellectual and moral order of society (29).
Durkheim, Emile. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life
In this chapter Durkheim defines religion. In the first two sections, he sets forth definitions of religion which are erroneous, in order to assist readers in freeing their minds of misconceptions. to begin with he argues that the supernatural is not a characteristic of the religious (39). in order to say something is supernatural, it must happen out of the natural order of things (41). However, the idea of a necessary order did not exist before the construction of the positive sciences. Furthermore, religion's main goal is to explain every day events. It is not true that the notion of religion coincides with the extraordinary or the unforeseen. hence the idea of the supernatural is not of primitive origin; man has forged it as he has developed science (43).
Next, DH asserts that all religions cannot be associated with divinity or the worship of a supreme deity. Some religions, Buddhism for example, stress other practices instead. In Buddhism, salvation is the worshippers' primary concern -- not Buddha (47). DH also contends that even with the deistic religions, there are many rites which are completely independent of any idea of gods (e.g.: the Bible forbids wearing garments of flax and hemp) (49). hence, all religious powers do not emanate from divine personalities (50).
DH now begins his discussion of religion. first, he characterizes all the elementary phenomena which comprise religion (51). Religious phenomena can be classified in two fundamental categories: beliefs and rules. Beliefs are states of opinion and consist in representations, whereas rites are determined modes of action (51).
All religious beliefs classify things as either profane or sacred. Sacred things are considered superior in dignity and power to profane things, particularly men (52). Men typically consider themselves inferior to anything sacred; yet if man depends on gods, this dependence is reciprocal. without the offerings and sacrifices of man, gods would die (53).
Despite the heterogeneity of sacred and profane things, it is possible for the profane to pass into the world of the sacred. For example, this occurs when men are initiated into religious life with certain ceremonies (54).
However, the sacred and the profane are so heterogeneous that their differences eventually break down into antagonism. men are exhorted to withdraw themselves completely fro the profane world in order to lead an exclusively religious lives. the profane and the sacred cannot approach each other and keep their own nature at the same time (55).
Hence, we arrive at the criteria for religious beliefs. 'Religious beliefs are the representations which express the nature of the scared things and their relations with each other or with profane things. Rites are the rules of conduct which prescribe how a man should comport himself in the presence of these sacred objects' (56).
The totality if these beliefs, when organized in a way so as to form a system having a certain unity and a strict independence from other systems, constitutes a religion . A religion is not made up of a single idea; it is a whole made up of distinct parts. All religions recognize a plurality of sacred things, in addition to the system of cults -- each with some autonomy (56). Because of the variety of cults, there exist groups of religious phenomena which do not belong to any specific religion. If a cult survives while the group of people which practiced it disintegrates, the cult may remain as folk lore.
There is a distinction between magic and religion. Magic , like religion, is made up of beliefs and rites. It also has its dogmas, but they are less speculative because they have utilitarian ends. However, whereas religion has a church and a community of worshippers with common beliefs, there is no church in magic (60). The magician has a clientele and it is quite possible that none of them know each other (59-60). magic lacks the moral community formed by all the believers in a single faith (61). From this DH derives a more detailed definition of religion: 'a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things...things set apart and forbidden -- beliefs and practices which unite all those who adhere to them into one moral community ' (62). Because religion is inseparable from the church, it is clear that religion is eminently collective (63).
Durkheim, Emile. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life
Religious rites are observed not for the physical effects they might produce, but to remain faithful to the past and to maintain the groups normal physiognomy. Rites remake individuals and groups morally (414-5).
DH uses the cases of the Warramunga, the Intichuma, and the Arunta to illustrate the above proposition. Although they are separate entities, each tribe has a rite which commemorates a single ancestor. This rite recollects the past and also brings it to the present through a dramatic representation. The officiant is not an incarnation of the ancestor, but an actor playing a role(416).
These ceremonies are dramas which are believed to act on the course of nature (418). However, their most important function is to sustain the vitality of the mythic beliefs common to the group, and hence, revivify the most essential elements of the collective consciousness. Through ritual, individuals are strengthened in their social natures. The rite exercises a moral action more so than a physical action.
Not all rituals are performed with the external goal of acting on nature for material ends. Some simply represent the past for the sake of representing it (420). When the participants leave the ceremony, they go with a sense of moral well being (423). Ceremonies attach themselves to totems, which are incapable of physical effect. They can only exist in representations whose object is to commemorate the past (424).
Aside from illustrating the nature of a certain cult, ritual representations also serve recreative and aesthetic purposes. Rituals restore the moral of the group. They allow men to pass from the real world to an imaginary one. They even pass from the commemorative rite to public merrymaking. Some religious ceremonies, whose soul object is to distract, were probably ancient rites. Even games and art have retained a religious character (425). Recreation is one of the forms of moral remaking, which is the principal goal of the rite.
A religious rite can have a plurality of specific purposes. For instance, fasting is a penance, a preparation for communion, and it even confers 'positive virtues.' Inversely, many rites can produce the same effect and mutually replace one another. For instance, to assure the reproduction of the totemic species, one can resort to oblations, imitative practices, or commemorative representations. This proves the plasticity and extreme generality of useful action which stems from the rites (431). Most importantly, common sentiments are expressed in common acts. The particular nature of these acts is secondary.
Durkheim, Emile. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life
In the final chapter, Durkheim equates religion to society. He says that society is the cause of the sui generis sensations of the religious experience. Furthermore, social action dominates religious life (466).
In addition, the fundamental categories of thought and science have religious origin. In fact, nearly all great social institution, moral and legal rules, have a basis in religion. Religion is the concentrated reflection of collective life, and its principal purpose is to influence moral life (466-7).
Religion systematically idealizes. Collective life 'awakens' religious thought in order to bring about a state of effervescence which changes the conditions of psychic activity. Thus man places another world -- a sacred, ideal; world -- above his every day profane life (469). In creating new ideals, society remakes itself (470).
Although certain religious symbols mat disappear with time, every society will always feel the need to reaffirm the collective sentiments which make up its unity (474-5).
There are two elements of religious life. Feasts and rites (the cult)are a system of practices oriented toward action. The second is a system of ideas whose object is to explain the world (476). religion attempts to explain realities by connecting things with each other -- to systematize them. Scientific logic actually stems from the methodology of religion.
DH next begins a discussion on the concept as a collective representation. Although a concept may not apply to every individual, it corresponds to the way in which society considers the things of its own experience (483). By the mere fact that society exists, there is a whole system of representations by means of which men understand each other.
A collective representation guarantees objectivity because it is collective. It was been able to maintain and generalize itself because it has sufficient reason -- the men who accept it verify it by their own experience. Thus, DH takes it as an axiom that religious beliefs contain a truth which must be discovered (486).
DH reiterates that the categories of knowledge (time, space ,etc.)are social. Since they are concepts themselves, they are the work of the group (488). The relationships which they express could only have been learned through society (491). Time, space, and class were all created out of cooperation (492). Yet logical organization differentiates itself from its original social organization as societies expand and integrate. Social moulds must readapt. human thought is not a primitive fact, but it is a product of history (493).
Hence there is not really such a great antinomy between science and religion. Both systems of thought are directed toward the universal and imply that the individual can raise himself above his own point of view and live an impersonal life. Impersonal reason is synonymous with collective thought.
Durkheim, Emile. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life.
In this chapter, DH discusses how men have constructed the belief in totems. A totem in religion is ' a symbol, a material expression of something else' (236). it symbolizes god, but also the society which worships it (the clan). In fact, the god of the clan is nothing else than the clan itself, personified under the visible form of the totem (typically animal or vegetable) (236). The totem's efficacy comes from its psychical power over its worshippers as well as its moral authority over the society (238).
Because people do not perceive what the cause of the force of the collective conscious is, they believe it comes from a force outside themselves. This is the moral conscience and men have always represented it with religious symbols (242).
Consequently humans get the impression that there are two sorts of reality: on the one hand there are profane things, and on the other, there are sacred things. Society constantly creates sacred things out of ordinary ones (243). humans add sacred qualities to objects (261). Society consecrates men and ideas.
The individual cannot penetrate the sacred without 'entering into relations with extraordinary powers that excite him to the point of frenzy' (250). Hence, in the midst of this effervescence, DH contends, the religious idea seems to be born (250). By concentrating itself almost entirely on in specific moments, collective life has been able to attain its greatest intensity and efficacy, as well as give men a more active sentiment of the double existence they lead (251).
DH explains how collective forces come to be thought of under the forms of totems, especially in the shape of an anima or plant. he first contends that the transfer of sentiments to a thing comes from the fact that the idea of a thing and the idea of its symbol are closely related in our minds. The result is that emotions provoked by the one extend to the other. Since widespread emotions are common to a group, they must be associated to something that is common to all (primitive clans: plants and animals). This is the totemic emblem(252).
The totemic emblem is like the visible body of god; it represents the collective force of the clan -- its religious force (253). Religious forces are moral powers because they translate to the way in which the collective conscious acts on individual consciousnesses (254). Totems have a dual purpose: they animate and discipline minds, but they also [are believed to] make plants grow and animals reproduce.
Religion is a system of ideas with which individuals represent to themselves their own society, and the obscure but intimate relations which they have with it (257). Religion strengthens the bonds attaching the individual to the society of which he is a member (258).
The clan chooses to rally around an emblem because not only does it clarify the sentiment society has of itself, but it also serves to create this sentiment (262). If social sentiments are connected with something that endures (emblem), the sentiments themselves become more durable. Emblems constantly bring collective sentiments to the fore (263).
Social life is only made possible by a vast system of symbols. Yet the clan is not the only society which uses totemic practices. generally speaking, a collective sentiment can become 'conscious of itself' only by being fixed on some material object. Social necessity brings about this fusion of things and social life facilitates their union.
Durkheim also reiterates that because religion fostered the idea that there are internal connections between things, it opened up the way for science and philosophy. This is of course, because religion is a social affair which stems from collective thought.
Durkheim, Emile. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life
In this chapter DH will illustrate the characteristic attitudes which the primitive observes in the celebration of his cult, and will classify the most general forms of his rites as well as explain their origins. DH asserts that every cult has a double aspect --negative and positive. Two sorts of rites are closely associated to this double aspect (337).
The purpose of the negative cult (or rites) is to separate sacred and profane beings. These rites forbid certain ways of acting in the form of interdictions. Religious interdiction implies the notion of sacredness (338-9).
Some examples of religious interdictions are: Australian tribe members (profane) are forbidden to carry the bones of a dead men (sacred) unless they are wrapped in bark. A moral general example is: people (profane) cannot consume certain forbidden animal meats (sacred). (341-2). moreover, if certain foods are forbidden to the profane because they are sacred, other foods are forbidden to sacred person because they are profane. In either case, contact between the two is forbidden.
Nothing which either directly or indirectly concerns the profane life should be confused with the religious lie (344). In general all acts characteristic of the ordinary life are forbidden while religious events are taking place (345-6). These rules are strongest for the public cult, or public practice of religion, as opposed to an individual's private practice of religion (which DH contends is still influenced by social religion) (347).
Up to this point, the negative cult appears only to be a system of abstentions. Nonetheless, it is found to exercise a positive action on the religious and moral nature of the individual. The individual cannot lead any religious life unless he begins to withdraw somewhat from temporal life. In this manner then, the negative cult is a condition of access to the positive cult (348). For instance, the result of the numerous interdictions of the negative cult in primitive religions is to bring about a radical change in the initiate to the given religion. after he takes part in the rather primitive negative rites, he acquires a sacred character and is considered reborn by the rest of the group (350). y The understanding of the positive effects of negative rites allows us to better understand the purposes of asceticism. Both ancient and modern religions attribute a sanctifying and strengthening power to suffering (354-5). DH explains the reason for this :'suffering is the sign that...certain of the bonds attaching [the individual] to his profane environment are broken; so it testifies that he is partially freed from his environment' (355). In order to serve his gods (the positive cult), the individual must sacrifice his profane interests (356).
But asceticism and the negative cult do not serve only religious purposes. Religious interests are only the symbolic form of social and moral concerns. Not only do the gods demand suffering and abnegation from their followers, but so does society. To fulfill his duties to society, the individual will always have to suppress his instincts, whatever the dogmas or mythologies of the time (356).
The main reason for the necessity of the separating powers of the negative cult is the 'contagiousness' of the sacred world. Certain rites, objects, or people are sacred, yet they cannot help but to come into contact with the profane, by virtue of the multitude of other things they are associated with. The sanctity of sacred things is contagiously transmitted to everything which evokes the idea of them (359). Hence, even the least proximity (material or moral) can draw religious forces out of their domain. Precautions in the form of the negative cult are essential to keep things in their separate domains (358-360). From this, DH concludes that 'every profanation implies a consecration'(560).
The extreme facility with which religious forces diffuse is not surprising. Religious forces are collective moral forces which are made up of ideas that stem from society sui generis (362). The sacred contagion' is not a process where religious forces leave the objects in which they are embodied. The religious value of objects was conferred to them by society. Thus, the same religious principle can animate very different objects and this explains how plants, animals, people, and even rocks are made into totems (i.e. Jesus - lamb - fig leaves- -crosses).
To close this chapter, DH draws a relationship between religion and the sciences (for the ten millionth time). Scared contagion, by showing the connectedness of things, opened the way for future scientific thought which utilizes the important concept of relationships between things that do not appear to be connected (365).
Note: negative rites: separate the sacred from the profane via prohibitions positive rites: stess the individual's commitment and membership in the social community piacular (expiatory) rites: confirm the loss of group members by specifying ways of cpoing. 'funeral are for the living.'
EMILE DURKHEIM'Anomic Suicide'TS 916-29
DH prefaces this chapter with the statement that society not only
attracts the sentiments and activities of individual with unequal force,
but it is a power controlling them (241).
EMILE DURKHEIM'Types of Suicide'TS 213-18
At the onset of this article, DH sets up three propositions: 1: Suicide
varies inversely with the degree of integration of religious society
Thus, suicide varies inversely with the degree of integration of the
social groups, of which the individual forms a part (213).
EMILE DURKHEIM --- Rules of the Sociological Method pp50-146
In chapter 3, DH presents the rules sociologists should use to distinguish normal social phenomena from pathological social phenomena. Average types depict normal phenomena and all others are morbid (pathological) phenomena, which have dire consequences for society. Pathological types can only be defined in relation to a given species. What is pathological for one group may not be for another (56).
Three rules for establishing the normality of phenomena:
1: a social fact is normal, in relation to a given social type at a given phase of its development, when it is present in the average society of that species at the corresponding phase of its evolution.
2: one can verify the results of the preceding method by showing that the generality of the phenomenon is bound up with the general conditions of the collective life of the social type considered.
3: this verification is necessary when the fact in question occurs in a social species which has not yet reached the full course of its evolution. (64).
DH contends that many essential social phenomena come to light when
the proper methodology is used. for instance, although many criminologists
assume crime is pathological, they are incorrect (65). First of all,
crime is normal because no society is exempt from it (67). If the collective
conscience of a society is strong, it will designate certain acts as
criminal. What confers the criminal character of an act is not its intrinsic
quality, but the definition which the collective conscience assigns
to it. Crime is necessary because it is bound up with the fundamental
conditions of social life and it is useful because these conditions
are indispensable to the evolution of morality and of law (70).
In chapter 4, 'The Classification of Social Types,' Durkheim asserts that it is not possible to institute the laws of science only after reviewing all the facts they express. Too many varied facts exist (79). It is better to substitute a limited number of types for the indefinite multiplicity of individuals. This will not only order pre-existing knowledge, but will create new knowledge (80). Because the nature of the group depends on the nature and number of component elements and their mode of combination, we must use these general characteristics as their basis. the general facts of social life follow from this basis. We can call the classification of social types 'social morphology.'
DH proposes to classify social groups according to the degree of complexity in organization which they represent. The simplest group is the 'horde,' and then the 'clan' which is a compound of hordes, and then the 'city -state' which is an aggregate of clans, etc (83-84). Within these types, one can distinguish between groups by the level of integration of their sub-groups (85). However, the more complex a social group is, the less definite its contours. Nonetheless, DH chooses to call each social group a 'species,' even if it is formed only once (86-7).
In chapter 5, DH establishes guidelines for the explanation of social
facts. He argues that to show the usefulness of a fact, it is not enough
to explain how it originated or why it is what it is. Instead, 'when
the explanation of a social phenomenon is undertaken, we must seek separately
the efficient cause which produces it and the function it fulfills'
(95). the question is not whether the cause has a distinct purpose,
but whether or not a correspondence between the function and the result
exists which is useful to the organism (95).
In chapter 6, DH sets forth rules for the establishing of sociological proofs. Since social phenomena are not within the control of the sociological experimenter, he must employ the comparative method by conforming to the principal of causality. the basis of sociological comparisons must be the following proposition:
A given fact always has a single corresponding cause (128).
If suicide appears to depend on more than one cause, it is because
in reality there are several kinds of suicides (129).
In his conclusion, DH first contends that his method is entirely independent
of philosophy; it abandons generalizations and enters the world of facts
(142). Second, his method is 'objective;' it is dominated by the idea
that social facts are things and must be treated as such. If sociological
phenomena are only systems of objectivized ideas, to explain them is
to rethink them in their logical order. Only methodical experiments
can extract the 'truth' from things. Third, DH's method is exclusively
sociological (144). A social fact can be explained only by another social
fact, and this explanation is possible by pointing out the principal
factor in collective evolution -- the social milieu.
EMILE DURKHEIM'On the Normality of Crime,' pp. 872-75 in Theories of Society, edited by Talcott Parsons, Edward Shils, Kaspar D. Naegele, and Jesse R. Pitts. New York: Free Press.
Crime is normal, an inevitable and necessary part of every society. (It may take abnormal forms, such as when the crime rate is unusually high.) 'A society exempt from it would be utterly impossible' (872). Since people differ from 'the collective type,' there are some divergences which tend toward the criminal. However, what confers a 'criminal character' on divergences from the collective type is not 'the intrinsic quality of a given act but that definition which the collective consciousness lends them' (873).
Crime has an 'indirect utility' (874): In order for transformations in law and morality to be possible, 'the collective sentiments at the basis of morality must not be hostile to change, and consequently must have but moderate energy.... Every pattern is an obstacle to new patterns, to the extent that the first pattern is inflexible' (873-4). This 'moderate energy,' which permits change, also permits crime. If there were no crime, it would be evidence that change was not possible: 'To make progress, individual originality must be able to express itself' (874).
However, crime also has a direct utility. Crime 'in certain cases directly prepares these changes [progress]. Where crime exists, collective sentiments are sufficiently flexible to take on a new form, and crime sometimes helps to determine the form they will take' (874), Example, Socrates; freedom of thought was once a crime. Socrates' crime prepared the way for a 'new morality and faith which the Athenians needed, since the traditions by which they had lived until then were no longer in harmony with the current conditions of life' (874). Thus, '[c]ontrary to current ideas, the criminal no longer seems a totally unsociable being.... On the contrary, he plays a definite role in social life' (874).
Then Durkheim goes on a little jag about pathology and how the normality of phenomena should be defined, which I am not going to give much more shrift than this, though you may want to read it in detail: 'If, however, the most widely diffused facts can be pathological [for instance, crime], it is possible that the normal types never existed in actuality; and if that is the case, why study the facts?... The principle object of all sciences of life, whether individual or social, is to define and explain the normal state and to distinguish it from its opposite.... In order that sociology may be a true science of things, the generality of phenomena must be taken as the criterion of their normality' (875). This is actually an important issue, and sheds light on why Emile sets up his concepts the way he does.