Cover

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Title Page, About the Series, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-x

Sacred Revolutions was motivated by the question informing all my research: How does a culture or social group develop a critical perspective in regard to itself? Correlatively, what are the respective contributions of specialized discursive practices—whether literary or from the human sciences—in the production of an answer? ...

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Introduction: Why Sociology?

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pp. 1-22

The impetus for this study was the following paradox of French modernity: that some of the most brilliant intellectual figures of the interwar period would invoke a “sacred sociology” to examine the ambient social and political crises. Indeed, the heterogeneous gathering of ethnologists,1 philosophers, writers, and artists who convened in a Paris café as a “Collège de Sociologie” ...

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1. Durkheim’s Sociological Revolution

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pp. 23-65

Midway through The Elementary Forms of Religious Life Emile Durkheim illustrates the opposition between the sacred and the profane by evoking its particularly violent dramatization among Australian aboriginals. Periodically, clans are called together to celebrate a snake or fire ceremony, so that the dull and torpid existence of the dispersed phase of social life is transformed into a concentrated exaltation of collective energies. ...

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2. Savages in the Sorbonne

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pp. 66-109

In the introduction to Elementary Forms, Durkheim espouses the revolution effected by ethnography within sociology and repudiates its enlistment as a machine de guerre against religion. His caveat points to precedents in the history of French ideas, when the discovery of New World denizens exhibiting a morality without benefit of Bible or baptism delivered a metaphysical shock tantamount to the first European realization that “God is dead.”1 ...

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3. Politics and the Sacred in the Collège de Sociologie

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pp. 110-154

Roger Caillois explained the impulse to create a group united by the notion of a sacred sociology by comparing it to the ferment that had fueled the surrealist project. Both he and Michel Leiris had actively pursued interactions with members of the avant-garde movement during their formative years, although conflicts with André Breton eventually led to a suspension of shared activity. ...

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4. Sacrifice in Art and Eroticism

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pp. 155-193

Rather than the inventory of the Collège’s activities Bataille intended, his last lectures provided a defensive finale. Leiris, for instance, felt that undue emphasis upon the sacred had betrayed the Maussian total social fact,1 and Bataille’s response was to argue for a subjective approach to the sacred despite the malaise it may engender.2 ...

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Postscriptum: Effervescence from May ’68 to the Present

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pp. 194-212

The point of departure for this study was to respond to Jean Wahl’s query as to why sociology exerted a unifying effect upon iconoclastic members of the interwar generation previously identified with surrealism, revolution, and psychoanalysis. The answer proposed is that the explicit qualification of sociology by the sacred signaled what was innovative to the Collège de Sociologie’s project, ...

Notes

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pp. 213-236

Index

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pp. 237-248

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About the Author

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Michèle H. Richman is associate professor of French studies at the University of Pennsylvania. ...