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Existentialism is an Antiracism

T Storm Heter

This special issue explores how existential thinking can be a living, global force that opposes racist praxis and thought. We are used to hearing that the “heyday” of existentialism was the middle of the twentieth century. In truth, because existential thought is future-oriented, the heyday of existentialism may be yet to come.

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Frenchman, Jew, Positivist

Reading the Rules and Mapping Émile Durkheim in Germany

Wiebke Keim


This article investigates German-speaking scholarship's reception of the programme of scientific sociology that Durkheim presented in The Rules of Sociological Method. It highlights intra-European historical dynamics and academic hierarchies. References to national, cultural, disciplinary and theoretical frames of reference are clearly discernible in the ways the Rules have been read and Durkheim has been mapped. First, his reception was embedded in a complex geometry of power between two nation states during a historical period of competitive nationalism. Second, it was affected by the way he was perceived within networks of academics who occupied unequal geo-cultural positions inside and across nation states. At times, the special location assigned to him as a Jewish intellectual played an important role. Third, his positioning as a positivist within the specific epistemological structuring of sociology is key to understanding how he was perceived east of the Rhine.

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From Neo-Kantianism to Durkheimian Sociology

Hermann Cohen and the Problem of Sacrifice

Stephen Turner


The phenomenon of sacrifice was a major problem in nineteenth-century social thought about religion for a variety of reasons. These surfaced in a spectacular way in a German trial in which the most prominent Jewish philosopher of the century, the neo-Kantian Hermann Cohen, was asked to be an expert witness. The text he produced on the nature of Judaism was widely circulated and influential. It presents what can be taken as the neo-Kantian approach to understanding ritual. But it also reveals the ways in which neo-Kantianism avoided becoming relativistic social science. In this case, it came to the edge and stopped. Cohen's account is compared to the similar, but ‘empirical’, account of the same material in Marcel Mauss and Henri Hubert, which completed the transition.

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The Gift and Open Science

Henrik Egbert


This article illustrates how social structures and behaviours of scientists in the societal sub-system of open science resemble patterns analysed in The Gift, an essay written by Marcel Mauss nearly 100 years ago. The presented analysis goes beyond existing interpretations of gift-giving in science. The latter has mainly focussed on the exchange of knowledge and citations. I argue that The Gift explains also identity, competition, co-opetition, rituals and punishment. Mauss's Gift is seen as a complementary model to existing economic and sociological approaches regularly used to analyse structures and behaviours in open science. By accentuating such an anthropological approach, I conclude that the Gift provides explanations for the stability and the expansion of the open science community.

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The Gift of The Nation

Marcel Mauss and the Intersocial Turn of Sociology

Francesco Callegaro


In order to question the modernist common sense of mainstream sociology, epitomised today by the charge of methodological nationalism, this article offers an overall reading of Marcel Mauss's The Nation. Conceived during the Great War and written mainly in 1920, Mauss's work radically re-examined both the nation and nationalism from a regenerated sociological viewpoint centered on the relations between societies. Distinguishing between partial relations of exchange and total relations of encounter, Mauss came to discover the gift as a total social fact, seeing it as the traditional unconscious spring of the federative dynamics that had to be reactivated in Europe to associate its nations in a great ‘Inter-nation’ and avoid the risk of a new total war. The Nation, by reviving the original ambition of Émile Durkheim's sociology to be a way rethinking and reshaping the concepts and institutions of modernity, helps us explore the contradictions and pathologies involved in the concept and history of the nation, in a situation currently marked by the return of nationalism and the quest for a social Europe.

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Interrogating Sartre and Apartheid

Mabogo Percy More


In an important article published last year (2020), Tal Sela asserts that Sartre's contributions to the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa throughout the 1960s are overblown and overestimated. Sartre was motivated, Sela argues, by a desire for self-aggrandizement rather than by any genuine concern for the victims of apartheid racism. This article refutes those claims. In countering Sela's arguments, I revisit in detail Sartre's interventions denouncing the phenomenon of apartheid and establish the importance of Sartre's tireless struggle against racism to highlight the force of his opposition to South Africa's infamous policy and his equally firm commitment to freedom both in his philosophy and personal life.

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L'Existentialisme de Sartre est-il un antiracisme ?

Elhadji Fallou Samb


This article will examine Sartre's fight against racism in the light of the most basic concepts of existentialism. From its very first articulations, the notion of freedom is connected to existentialism's founding tenet: existence precedes essence. My article demonstrates that just as in his fight against anti-Semitism and the Bad Faith of racist thinking, Sartre holds that every human being is free to determine herself and that race must never be constructed as a determinism constraining that freedom.


Cet article propose de comprendre la lutte contre le racisme dans laquelle Sartre s'est inlassablement engagé à partir des concepts clés de son existentialisme. Dès les premières formulations de la pensée de Sartre, la notion de liberté est à mettre en rapport avec la formule même qui résume l'existentialisme : l'existence précède l'essence. Je démontre dans cet article qu'à l'instar de son combat contre l'antisémitisme et contre la mauvaise foi de la pensée raciste, le combat de Sartre contre le racisme est construit sur l'idée que l'homme est libre de se définir et que sa race même ne saurait être un déterminisme contraignant cette liberté.

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La typologie des crimes de Durkheim dans ses Leçons de sociologie criminelle (1892–1893)

Matthieu Béra


This article presents the sociological typology of crimes developed by Durkheim for his course in criminal sociology of 1892–1893, of which a complete set of notes by his nephew and student Mauss was found among descendants in 2018. It can be broken down into four types of crimes: ataxic (theft, vagrancy), altruistic (homicide), alcoholic (blows and wounds, insults), anomic (fraudulent bankruptcy, swindling). This original typology in many ways announced the typology of suicides that would appear in 1897, and shows Durkheim's sociological theory at that time, while he was defending his thesis in 1893, at the end of that academic year. It sheds new light on the notions of regulation and integration and suggests the articulation between collective representations and social life, while Durkheim has not yet had his “revelation” (1894–1895).


Cet article présente la typologie sociologique des crimes élaborée par Durkheim pour son cours de sociologie criminelle de 1892–1893 dont un jeu de notes complet de son neveu et étudiant Mauss a été retrouvé chez des descendants en 2018. Elle se décompose en quatre types ou espèces de crimes : ataxiques (vols, vagabondage), altruistes (homicides), alcooliques (injures et coups et blessures) et anomiques. Cette typologie inédite préfigure, sur de nombreux aspects, la typologie des suicides qui paraîtra en 1897, et donne à voir la théorie sociologique de Durkheim à cet instant, alors qu'il soutient sa thèse à la fin de cette même année universitaire. Elle éclaire d'un nouveau jour les notions de régulation et d'intégration, alors à l'état de gestation, et donne à penser sur l'articulation entre les représentations collectives et la vie sociale, alors que Durkheim n'a pas encore eu sa « révélation » pour mener à bien son programme de sociologie religieuse (1894–1895).

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Malinowski and Mauss Exchanging Knowledge in Interwar Europe

Lessons in Internationalism

Leo Coleman


Bronisław Malinowski sought throughout his career to make a scientific contribution to understanding and reforming the international order by making analogies with ‘primitive’ societies. His ethnographic material was important to Marcel Mauss's internationalist project in The Gift, and can still provide lessons in internationalism. This article examines Malinowski's ethnographic figuration of ‘the evolution of primitive international law’, and documents a set of intellectual exchanges between him and Mauss. This illuminates an unexpected avenue of Durkheimian influence on British social anthropology and situates Malinowski in contemporary imperial and internationalist debates. Despite Malinowski's early criticism of Émile Durkheim's account of ‘collective ideas’, his later writing shows the (unacknowledged) influence of Mauss's understandings of obligation and intersocial exchange. Unearthing the terms of this exchange between Malinowski and Mauss helps to recover the central normative lesson of the former's final book and his ethnographic work as a whole – namely, that sovereignty should be dethroned as an organising principle of international order in favour of intersocial exchange and the obligations it produces.

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‘Nothing Is Less Universal than the Idea of Race’

Alfred Métraux, American Social Science and UNESCO's Anti-Racist Campaign in 1950s Paris

Alice L. Conklin


In 1950, the cultural anthropologist Alfred Métraux, a student of Marcel Mauss, was appointed to head a new Race Bureau at UNESCO in Paris whose mission was to combat racism with the tools of social science. Métraux had worked in the Americas since the 1930s, and his appointment allowed French social scientists to join the global struggle to remove prejudice ‘from the minds of men’. To what extent did French scholars help shape Métraux's efforts, given that at the time American sociologists and social psychologists dominated the study of race relations? Booklets commissioned by UNESCO and authored by French and American scientists in the early 1950s suggest that linguistic and conceptual barriers made cross-national discussions of race difficult, but not impossible. Thanks in part to Métraux's campaign, the social scientific study of race relations in post-war France began earlier than is typically remembered.