The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life

by Émile Durkheim
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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 132

The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life is a book by Émile Durkheim, a French sociologist. The book does not have any characters, as it is an academic text that analyzes the social phenomenon that is religion. Durkheim focuses his studies on Aboriginal religions in Australia, focusing specifically on totemic societies. Durkheim argues that religion, totemic religion specifically, grew out of humans' ability to have emotional connections not just with one another but also with material culture. The ability to connect with objects or their environment ultimately led to humans ascribing sentimental power to these things. Through this, ideas of what is or is not sacred grew, and Durkheim argues that societies then formed religions when they collectively agreed upon a "unified system of beliefs and practices relative to the sacred things."