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540 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY Emile Durkheim, Sociologist and Philosopher. By Dominick La Capra. (Ithaca, New York: Cornel1 University Press, 1972. Pp. 315) It is ironic that the two great figures of sociology at the turn of the century saw the relationship of society and morality as central to their work and that their method was characterized by a comparative approach. And yet neither Durkheim nor Weber seems to have been aware of the other's work. It is in part the merit of La Capra's study to seek to capture the quality of French intetlectual life which contributed to this parochialism of Durkheim's, bound as he was to the "obstructed path." At the same time this study of Durkheim remains in some ways unsatisfactory. While the author purports to present us with "a comprehensive interpretation and assessment of the thought of Emile Durkheim 9 within the venerable tradition of the Jtude du syst~me" (p. 1), what we do get is both an analysis of Durkheim's work as well as various excursi on writers who were greatly influenced by Durkheim. Thus, in a chapter on The Division o/Labor in Society some five pages are devoted to an analysis of Marcel Mauss, The Gift, while a further seven pages are given to Levi-Strauss and Victor Turner. It is in what La Capra's study purports to be that it falls between two chairs--it is neither a systematic study nor does it quite come off as intellectual history. Durkheim, the man, eludes us almost completely in this study. In the chapter on the sociologist's milieu we learn nothing of his family background or education prior to entering the Ecole Normale Supdrieure, but an inordinately detailed account of Louis Liard's (one of Durkheim's mentors) development and career is presented to us. There is little here that is probing as to the influence of the Rabbinical tradition upon Durlcheim's intellectual development, a tradition which to this reader is reflected in the pedagogical strain in Durkheim's orientation --expressed not in activism, but in a religious mode. Durkheim speaks to this when he asks: "What constitutes the authority which colors so readily the word of the priest is the elevated idea he has of his mission; for he speaks in the name of a god in whom he believes and to whom he feels closer than the crowd of the profane. The lay teacher can and must have something of this sentiment" (cited by La Capra, pp. 51-52). Finally, in the context of the French milieu La Capra fails to recoL,nize sufficiently the strength of the horreur du/ace en/ace in its relation to what the author acknowledges to be Durkheim's early positivism, stemming in part "from a mystified generalization of the nature of experience in a society characterized by extremely formal and markedly bureaucratic relations" (p. 11). The later emergence of such concepts as conscience collective and fait socialeseem to point to that threat to social solidarity which an unmediated individualism poses. La Capra's failure to explore this theme is, I believe, closely connected to his philosophical mode of analysis, which sees Durkheim's thought as a "Cartesianized NeoKantianism " which "led him at times to postulate a dualistic division between the 'outer' and the 'inner' in experience" (p. 150). The structure of La Capra's book broadly follows Durkheim's major works, The DiviMon of Labor in Society, Suicide, The Rules of Sociological Method, and The Elementary Forms of the Religious/.d/e. A brief Epilogue seeks to sum up the study's findings. In raising the questions he did Durkheim stands squarely in the tradition of late nineteenth century social sciences. As La Capra notes: "The primary focus of The Division of Labor was the structure of modern society, the process of modernization which had brought that structure into existence, and the relation of structure and process to moral solidarity among men in society" (p. 82). Mechanical and organic solidarity parallel the polarity of Gemeinscha# and GeseUscha/t.There is here that same sense of weary regret in "the absence of consensually accepted limiting norms." But as La...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 540-541
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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