Form and Content

(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Émile Durkheim, along with Max Weber and Karl Marx, is commonly considered one of the founding fathers of modern sociology, as well as a profound shaper of the discipline of anthropology, especially in England. The British anthropologist Robin Horton claims that now more than ever it may be appropriate to “accord Durkheim the accolade of ‘The Master,’” owing to the longevity of his influence in those disciplines.

His writings cover such diverse topics as the evolution of social structure in De la division du travail social (1893; The Division of Labor in Society, 1933), sociological method in Les Regles de la methode sociologique (1895; The Rules of Sociological Method, 1938), and the sociology of suicide in Le Suicide: Etude de sociologie (1897; Suicide: A Study in Sociology, 1951). In 1898, he founded the periodical L’Annee sociologique (sociological yearbook), the forum in which he published, along with his nephew and pupil Marcel Mauss, his first substantial work on the sociology of knowledge: Primitive Classification.

The work, now seen as a precursor of Durkheim’s magnum opus on the sociology of religion and knowledge, Les Formes elementaires de la vie religieuse: Le Systeme totemique en Australie (1912; The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life: A Study in Religious Sociology, 1915), was essentially an extended journal article...

(The entire section is 564 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Nonfiction Masterpieces)

Bloor, David. “Durkheim and Mauss Revisited: Classification and the Sociology of Knowledge,” in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science. XIII (1982), pp. 267-297.

Fenton, Steve. Durkheim and Modern Sociology, 1984.

Giddens, Anthony. Capitalism and Modern Social Theory: An Analysis of the Writings of Marx, Durkheim, and Max Weber, 1971.

Gieryn, Thomas. “Durkheim’s Sociology of Scientific Knowledge,” in Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. XVIII (1982), pp. 107-129.

Horton, Robin. “Levy-Bruhl, Durkheim, and the Scientific Revolution,” in Modes of Thought, 1973. Edited by Robin Horton and Ruth Finnegan.

Lukes, Steven. Émile Durkheim, His Life and Work: A Historical and Critical Study, 1972.