Émile Durkheim Additional Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Allen, N. J., W. S. F. Pickering, and W. Watts Miller, eds. On Durkheim’s Elementary Forms of Religious Life. New York: Routledge, 1998. An examination of Durkheim’s social and political thought.

Fenton, Steve, et al. Durkheim and Modern Sociology. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1984. Examines Durkheim’s influence on modern sociology in various areas, including the division of labor, social conflict and deviance, state authority, education, and religion.

Giddens, Anthony. Émile Durkheim. New York: Viking Press, 1979. A concise and informative introduction to the life and writings of Durkheim.

Lehmann, Jennifer M. Durkheim and Women. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994. Discusses Durkheim’s viewpoints of women and their role in social conditions.

Lukes, Steven. Émile Durkheim: His Life and Work. New York: Harper & Row, 1973. One of the leading authorities of Durkheim’s thought presents the reader with an account of his life and influence.

Nielsen, Donald A. Three Faces of God: Society, Religion, and the Categories of Totality in the Philosophy of Émile Durkheim. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999. A very readable presentation of the influences in Durkheim’s thought.

Pearce, Frank. The Radical Durkheim. London: Unwin Hyman, 1989. A radical stance on Durkheim, this text is exemplary of the various ways in which he can be interpreted.

Schmaus, Warren. Durkheim’s Philosophy of Science and the Sociology of Knowledge: Creating an Intellectual Niche. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994. Through a revolutionary interpretation of Durkheim’s major works, Schmaus argues that Durkheim, in his empirical observations, demonstrated how a philosophy of science can bring about a new science.

Walford, Geoffrey, and W. S. F. Pickering, eds. Durkheim and the Modern Education. New York: Routledge, 1998. A selection of revised papers highlighting Durkheim’s views on education.

Watts, William Miller. Durkheim, Morals, and Modernity. Buffalo, N.Y.: McGill-Queens University Press, 1996. Examines Durkheim’s ethics, arguing that a failure to understand them has led to a misunderstanding of his sociology of the modern world.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Émile Durkheim (door-kehm), who was born in 1858 in Épinal, a mountain town in eastern France, shares with his predecessor and fellow countryman Auguste Comte an internationally recognized reputation as cofounder of the modern field of sociology. Moreover, in the broader social scientific field, his name has traditionally ranked alongside those of Karl Marx and Max Weber.

He was the son of Moise Durkheim, who was rabbi of Épinal and chief rabbi of the départements of the Haute Marne and the Vosges. Despite the family’s hope that their son would continue a long tradition of rabbinical service, the young Durkheim left the local rabbinical school and began studies at the public Collège d’Épinal. He was an outstanding student, earning two baccalauréats (in letters in 1874 and in sciences in 1875). Restraints were imposed by his father’s bad health, however, and Durkheim was kept from progressing directly to the prestigious École Normale Supérieure in Paris. After failing the entrance exams twice, he was finally admitted in 1879.

The experience of studying at the École Normale Supérieure allowed Durkheim intellectual interaction with several fellow students who would make their names in science, literature, and politics (Henri-Louis Bergson and Jean Jaurès among them). One of the main personal developments to come out of these years was Durkheim’s total rejection of his own Jewish background specifically and of religion as an influential factor in social evolution generally. Eventually he went much further than his mentors, who themselves taught that preconceived ideas were “the most common evil” of modern society. Durkheim would criticize one of his teachers, Fustel de Coulanges, for studying religion as a primary determinant of social organization. Durkheim’s nascent conception of what social scientific method should incorporate called for the opposite: explaining subjective phenomena such as religion in the light of observable elements of social organization.

As Durkheim emerged into his own following his studies at the École Normale Supérieure, he continued to acknowledge his debt...

(The entire section is 883 words.)


(Survey of World Philosophers)

Article abstract: Durkheim was one of the founders of modern sociology, a discipline that he demonstrated was not reducible to psychology or biology. His concept of society as a moral construct had a great impact on anthropology, history, religion, law, and political theory.

Early Life

Émile Durkheim was born April 15, 1858, to a family of rabbinical scholars living in the Vosges region of France. Although he broke with his Judaic heritage by becoming an agnostic, the ordered and respectable nature of his home life would have a lasting effect upon his attitudes and interests. After studying at the Collège d’Épinal and the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris, he entered the famous...

(The entire section is 2109 words.)


(Critical Survey of Ethics and Literature)

Author Profile

Émile Durkheim expressed anxiety about the impact of modern society on the ethical basis of society. He argued that the advance of science and technology was not necessarily progressive; indeed, it resulted in creating a condition of “anomie” that was characterized by ethical and social isolation. Anomie resulted in a disconnected, rootless society in which ethical structures collapsed or were rendered meaningless. Durkheim’s experiences as a youth during the Franco-Prussian War and the high expectations of his parents contributed to his naturally somber personality and his rather pessimistic sense of “reality.” In The Division of Labor in Society, Durkheim identified the...

(The entire section is 470 words.)