The article begins by examining Durkheim’s editorial role in the
creation of Hubert and Mauss’s essay on sacrifice, published in his new
journal, the Année sociologique, in 1899. It then brings out how, in Les
Formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse, Durkheim operated both with an
‘official’ and a more or less ‘hidden’ theory of sacrifice, the first based on
the approach in Hubert and Mauss’s essay, the second rooted in Durkheim’s
earlier views and critical editorial comments on Hubert and Mauss’s ideas.
In the process it brings out, through a detailed analysis of the work’s chapters
specifically on sacrifice but also on piacular rites, tensions, ambiguities
and cross-purposes in the work as a whole. These especially turn round
Durkheim’s approach to violence and to the sacrificial offering or gift, and
are also evident in his concern with different types of effervescence, the
foundational and commemorative, as well as the ‘joyous’ and piacular.
The article concludes by linking these tensions with issues at stake in
Durkheim’s interest in the French Revolution and account of the role of
effervescence in moments of rupture and fundamental social change.