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Book part
Publication date: 2 December 2013

Eric Malczewski

The purpose of this chapter is twofold: one, to shed light on the nature of the central subject matter of social science; and, two, to demonstrate that Émile Durkheim’s…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this chapter is twofold: one, to shed light on the nature of the central subject matter of social science; and, two, to demonstrate that Émile Durkheim’s theory of collective representations identifies this subject matter.

Design/methodology/approach

Durkheim’s methodological and theoretical framework is assessed and compared with influential readings of it so as to show that Durkheim’s main theoretical contributions have been overlooked and to draw out insights of use to contemporary theory.

Findings

Defining the nature of human social reality and the central subject matter of social science forms the core of Durkheim’s project. Durkheim saw the central subject matter of social science as a single order of reality.

Research limitations/implications

This argument draws attention to the methodological and theoretical coherence of Durkheim’s thought, thereby helping to resolve the debate over how to interpret the work of this central figure and contributing a view of use to contemporary theory.

Originality/value

In rendering palpable the nature of the essential reality that is the object of Durkheim’s work, the argument advanced in this chapter resolves what are interpreted as anomalies in Durkheim’s thought and draws out the implications for better understanding Durkheim and the order of reality that traditionally has been referred to as culture or society.

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Social Theories of History and Histories of Social Theory
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78350-219-6

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Book part
Publication date: 26 November 2019

Shawn Van Valkenburgh

This chapter examines Francis Bacon’s influence on Émile Durkheim and demonstrates that Bacon’s theory of mental “idols” has a significant presence in Durkheim’s work…

Abstract

This chapter examines Francis Bacon’s influence on Émile Durkheim and demonstrates that Bacon’s theory of mental “idols” has a significant presence in Durkheim’s work. Both Bacon and Durkheim sought to demarcate new methods of inquiry against contemporary contenders. Both were wary of unfettered philosophical abstraction, as well as the pseudo-scientist’s preoccupation with immediately practical results. Thus, it is fitting that Durkheim would explicitly characterize perceived dangers to sociological knowledge in terms of Bacon’s idols – as objective obstacles which habit substitutes for fact in the absence of a sufficiently powerful epistemological mechanism. In preparation against these idols, Durkheim and Bacon offer rhetorically and logically similar remedies of self-imposed discipline and restraint. A close reading of key texts reveals that Durkheim’s references to Bacon capture surprisingly deep similarities, suggesting that Bacon influenced Durkheim to a greater degree than is commonly recognized.

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The Challenge of Progress
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78714-572-6

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Book part
Publication date: 12 October 2012

Michael E. Brown and Jeffrey A. Halley

Purpose – This chapter focuses on the status of Emile Durkheim's work in the United States, and on the prospects of its rehabilitation in light of the crisis of theory…

Abstract

Purpose – This chapter focuses on the status of Emile Durkheim's work in the United States, and on the prospects of its rehabilitation in light of the crisis of theory engendered by the critique of the theory of the sign and the paradox presented by the application of terms that invoke an inertial view of culture to everyday discourse.

Design/methodology/approach – How is it possible to reconcile the most general aspect of the internal life of the sociality that Durkheim places under the name of “solidarity,” with the theoretically expansive idea of social movements and with an idea of a generative culture radically different from the inertial institutional concept attributed to Durkheim? Our argument depends on conceiving of society as a course of activity, therefore, according to internal relations among subjectivities and objectivities. The main ontological assumptions of the human sciences are that humans and human affairs are essentially social and that sociality is irreducible and irrepressible. That difference lies at the heart of every attempt to identify something as unitary, complete, and stable.

Findings – Culture is tied to social movements, where the latter are thought of as expressions of the “becoming” of society. An understanding of the dynamics of culture requires revisiting dialectics and “internal relations.” The challenge to the idea of meaning based on the exchange of signs requires a reformulation of basic categories of human science. When the social is thought of as historical, it is necessary to think of history as immanent rather than as a condition or temporal course. Therefore, one is driven back to Marx by way of Hegel, where “history” refers to the contradictory character of whatever can be said about the social. It follows that every instance of unity is merely ostensible and cannot be relied on as a primary referent of a social science.

Research limitations/implications – “Culture” can no longer stand for something inert; rather, it appears as radically generative and reflexive. Further, it is not independent of economic reality, though it has the sort of weight that makes economism impossible.

Originality value – This chapter will stimulate more insightful appreciations of the work of Emile Durkheim, relative to his typical reception in U.S. social science. For instance, to reappropriate Durkheim for theoretical purposes, it is necessary to work through the problems raised by poststructuralism and the literature of ethnomethodology and its adjacent areas of research, with attention to the ontological presuppositions of theories of human affairs and the epistemological requirement of all the human sciences, that theory find itself in its object and its object in itself.

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Theorizing Modern Society as a Dynamic Process
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78190-034-5

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Book part
Publication date: 2 December 2013

Ryan Gunderson

Contemporary sociologists implicitly assume or explicitly state that classical social theorists shared the Enlightenment’s optimistic vision that society would become more…

Abstract

Purpose

Contemporary sociologists implicitly assume or explicitly state that classical social theorists shared the Enlightenment’s optimistic vision that society would become more rational, free, ethical, and just overtime. I reexamine the primary works that laid the foundation for sociology and resituate them in their neo-Romantic origins.

Design/methodology/approach

Close readings of formative texts are provided to revisit modernist critiques of social progress in turn of the century sociology. The works of Ferdinand Tönnies, Thorstein Veblen, Emile Durkheim, Georg Simmel, and Max Weber exemplify this tradition.

Findings

Insights from social theory written during and around the neo-Romantic period mirrored the Zeitgeist, a time fascinated with irrationality, moral decay, unconsciousness, decadence, degeneration, cynicism, historical decline, and pessimism. However, classical sociology’s pessimism should not be interpreted as anti-modern. Rather, it contributed to the Enlightenment’s maturation.

Research limitations/implications

Contemporary sociologists should recover the spirit of classical sociology’s gloomy extension of the modern project and bring societal processes to consciousness through human reason, untainted by the fable of progress. Without rational grounds for optimism, the most honest and sincere way to preserve the hope for alternatives and emancipation is through the continuation and advancement of the pessimistic tradition. To formulate new disillusioned theories of society, sociology ought to draw from its ignored tragic legacy.

Originality/value

Rather than accept accounts of classical sociologists as believers in progress, the tradition reveals a world of increasing disenchantment, atomization, anomie, alienation, confusion, quarrel, rationalization devoid of value, and unhappiness. Providing society thoughtful, systematic accounts of its own estrangement advances the project of modernity.

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Social Theories of History and Histories of Social Theory
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78350-219-6

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Book part
Publication date: 6 September 2018

Danielle Sutton

Purpose – To explain the unswerving loyalty given to Charles Manson by his followers from a religious perspective by drawing on Durkheim’s (1912/1976) theory of religion…

Abstract

Purpose – To explain the unswerving loyalty given to Charles Manson by his followers from a religious perspective by drawing on Durkheim’s (1912/1976) theory of religion and Hall’s (2003, 2013) theory of religion and violence.

Design/methodology/approach – A qualitative analysis of archived multimedia either quoting, or written by, members of the Manson Family. Specifically, a theoretical thematic analysis is used to draw inferences on how members explained their participation in the 1969 murders.

Findings – The Manson Family display a unified belief system premised on the sacredness ascribed to Helter Skelter, forming a moral community at Spahn Ranch. Manson was conceived as the clan’s God, thereby meeting most of Durkheim’s requirements for a religious formation. A main component of their belief system was the inevitability of Helter Skelter, or the upcoming racial revolution; the ultimate war and end of the world. This belief provides one explanation for the Manson murders; that they were carried out as a religious duty to initiate Helter Skelter.

Originality/value – Despite the continued public fascination with the Manson murders, only a few studies have applied a sociotheoretical framework to explain this event and none have used a religious account from the perspective of those involved. By introducing religion as one plausible framework, this research is not only an extension of Durkheim’s work but also contributes to existing literature on the relationship between religion and violence.

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Homicide and Violent Crime
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78714-876-5

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Book part
Publication date: 16 October 2017

Jiří šubrt

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The Perspective of Historical Sociology
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78743-363-2

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Book part
Publication date: 29 August 2017

Michel Dion

The side effects of disguised bribes are hidden by their apparent good consequences (as pseudo-gifts). The aim of the chapter is to unveil to what extent pseudo-gifts (as…

Abstract

The side effects of disguised bribes are hidden by their apparent good consequences (as pseudo-gifts). The aim of the chapter is to unveil to what extent pseudo-gifts (as disguised bribes) could distort the cultural, social, and communicational functions of gift-giving practices. We will firstly describe how disguised bribes could be analyzed from a Sartrean perspective, given that Sartre’s notion of bad faith could help to better understand the three basic kinds of substantive loss which follow from disguised bribes: (a) the loss of commonalities (the cultural function of gift-giving as distorted by disguised bribes: Malinowski’s notion of culture): we will analyze the phenomenon of guanxi; (b) the loss of social bonds (the social function of gift-giving as distorted by disguised bribes: Durkheim’s notion of culture); (c) the loss of communicability, and the arising of an empty truth (the communicational function of gift-giving as distorted by disguised bribes: Jaspers’ notion of truth claims). Gift-giving practices are culturally rooted. This is the first level of analysis (surface). Seizing the social and moral function of gift-giving practices unveils the second level of analysis (beneath-the-surface). Describing the communicational function of gift-giving practices opens the door to the third level of analysis (exchanges of truth claims). Bribery is the distortion of those basic functions of gift-giving practices. We are then facing an empty truth (the communicational function of culture is distorted).

Any concept of disguised bribes must be empirically tested. The way the cultural, social and communication functions of gift-giving practices are distorted could vary from one culture to another. Future research could check how such distortions arise in given societal cultures. It could then distinguish the side effects of disguised bribes, either from a cultural viewpoint, or from social perspective, or even from a communicational pattern of reference. Unveiling the multiple ways of distorting gift-giving practices could help decision-makers to better understand the frontiers between bribery and gift-giving. Emphasizing the various functions of gift-giving practices, from a philosophical and sociological perspective, could allow business decision-makers to raise their ethical awareness.

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The Handbook of Business and Corruption
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78635-445-7

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Book part
Publication date: 13 May 2019

Jiří Šubrt

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Individualism, Holism and the Central Dilemma of Sociological Theory
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78769-038-7

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Article
Publication date: 1 January 1996

Buford Farris

In one of his later works, Professional Ethics and Civic Morals, Durkheim makes a distinction between the concept of equality based on merit and equality based on charity…

Abstract

In one of his later works, Professional Ethics and Civic Morals, Durkheim makes a distinction between the concept of equality based on merit and equality based on charity. He proposed that the concept of merit is implied in the ethical justification of a fair contract and involves both distributive and commutative justice.

Details

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, vol. 16 no. 1/2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0144-333X

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Abstract

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Individualism, Holism and the Central Dilemma of Sociological Theory
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78769-038-7

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