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Journal Articles Journal of Classical Sociology Year : 2012

Sociology as subversion. Discussing the reproductive interpretations of Durkheim

Abstract

This article presents a critical analysis of a recurring interpretation of Emile Durkheim’s sociology, namely that it views society as fixed in a rigid, instituted form, doomed to self-repetition, impervious to any type of change except that of its own necessary internal development (see the work of Albert Bayet, Georges Sorel, Georges Gurvitch, Talcott Parsons, Robert Nisbet, or Raymond Boudon). It is argued here that this reproductive interpretation is based on Chapter 3 of The Rules of Sociological Method (1895), but that Durkheim himself rejected it altogether in his later writings. From his 1898 article, “Individual and Collective Representations,” to The Elementary Forms of Religious Life of 1912, Durkheim came to see one activity of society – the transformative activity of collective ideation – as unconcerned with the satisfaction of purely morphological needs. The point, however, is not that Durkheim’s sociology developed from a morphological approach governed by a principle of self-reproducibility into a psychological approach that transcends the production/reproduction dichotomy. The article argues instead that the reproductive interpretation offers only a partial reading of The Rules of Sociological Method. It neglects the contribution that sociology and the epistemological principles on which it is based bring to the instituting activity of collective ideation. Sociology, as a scientific form of collective ideation, actually instantiates its own transformative, even subversive, force.
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hal-02905041 , version 1 (23-07-2020)

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Mélanie Plouviez. Sociology as subversion. Discussing the reproductive interpretations of Durkheim. Journal of Classical Sociology, 2012, New Durkheim Scholarship – French Connections, 12 (3-4), p. 428-448. ⟨10.1177/1468795X12453271⟩. ⟨hal-02905041⟩
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