From Durkheim to Hocart

Sacred Resources and the Quest for 'Life'

in Durkheimian Studies

In this article, I argue that the word ‘resource’ can be used to denote what is considered to be of high value in a given society. These values may relate either to society as a whole or to its parts. In the former case, resources often acquire the characteristics of the sacred as identified by Émile Durkheim and others. It is here argued that the Durkheimian approach captures the symbolic dimension of the collective sacred but ignores the social effects of people’s attempts to obtain access to the highest value. To understand how concrete social forms evolve, one may rather turn to the writings of Arthur Maurice Hocart. His approach draws our attention to values (of ‘life’) and the social processes deriving from people’s engagement with the sacred. To illustrate this approach, an ethnographic example from Odisha, India is provided.