This essay explores a key issue in Durkheim’s work, namely the relationship between justice and charity, and argues that the key to this, in turn, is to be found in an analysis of the gift. Beginning with his early lycée lectures and their account of justice and charity in relation to the moral law, it goes on to suggest that throughout his work there is an underlying concern with the gift – even or especially in his concern with the contract. This is evident in his vision of a society based on a ‘spontaneous’ division of labour, as well as in his critique of the inequalities built into existing society through the institution of inheritance. But the essay also draws on modern French discussions of the gift, and their concern with issues of mutuality, reciprocity and recognition. This helps to identify the approach to the gift that underlies Durkheim’s sociology, and to bring out its interest and importance.
A Society of Justice and Charity
Edward A. Tiryakian
On 2 April 2009 a well-publicized Summit meeting of the Group of Twenty Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, more commonly known as the G-20, was held at London’s ExCel Centre in Custom House to discuss the great crisis facing the world’s weakened financial system and to propose, among other things, regulation to prevent systemic risks.1 The meeting was well attended by finance ministers, central bankers and hordes of reporters who gleefully reported as much on the protestors of disparate groups as on the accomplishments of the meeting.
William Watts Miller
To mark the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Durkheim’s birth, a number of conferences were held during 2008 – beginning at Epinal, his hometown, then at Oxford, Paris, São Paolo, Warsaw and Berlin. As part of the effort to record this effervescence of activity, with its many different lines of research, the present issue of our journal includes a selection of articles based on contributions to these conferences, while others are planned for inclusion in the next issue. At the same time, preparations are under way for the publication of collections on specific themes – on Durkheim’s roots, drawing on the conference at Epinal; on interpretations and applications of Durkheimian sociology in Brazil, drawing on the conference at São Paolo; and on the issue of solidarity, drawing on contributions to the conferences at Oxford and Berlin.
Analysis of the Spread and Reception of a Sociological Classic
In 2006 a Polish translation of Émile Durkheim’s Le suicide was published in Warsaw. Polish sociology is one of the most active in the European sociological tradition, both drawing and contributing to this, and has developed in close touch with the world’s centres of sociology. Yet Le suicide was not translated into Polish until more than one hundred years after the original edition. The paper explores this paradoxical situation, and traces the work’s career from its early reception in Poland, through the inter-war years, the post-Stalinist ‘thaw’ after 1956, the Solidarity movement and the crisis of the 1980s, up to the present day. But also, in taking the example of Le suicide and Poland, it aims to show how a classic work created in the centre of Europe spreads across other countries; which paths it takes; how it reaches a country situated far from the metropolis; how it is perceived there, accepted or rejected; how it is assimilated and included in the body of public and scientific work.
Maurice Halbwachs, Les Classes Sociales, édition critique de Gilles Montigny, préface de Christian Baudelot, Paris : Presses Universitaires de France, 2008, pp. 300.
Susan Stedman Jones
This paper explores the nature of Durkheim’s theoretical language concerning the whole and the individual. I look at the questions of holism and individualism throughout his thought, but I particularly focus on ‘L’individualisme et les intellectuels’, where he enters the debate over the Dreyfus affair, espousing the language of intellectual and moral right. I examine the historical and philosophical background of this and the tensions between individualism and socialism, within neglected aspects of French political history. Here a new language of individuality and right was forged, not simply through the pressure of events, but through a re-thinking of socialist holism from within a philosophical tradition.
In the spring and summer of 1938 two quite different seminars took place in Paris. One was the very well-known Collège de Sociologie, which included the participation of Caillois and Bataille – see ‘Sacred Sociology of the Contemporary World’, 2 April 1938, and the session ‘Festival’, 2 May 1939, in which Caillois indicates the importance of sacred games (in Hollier 1988: 157–159, 279–303). The other was the Walter Lippman Colloque, 26–30 August 1938 (in Rougier 1939). The former was the significant forerunner of French sociology and philosophy – from Derrida to Baudrillard – decisively influenced by Marcel Mauss.
An Unknown Text by Émile Durkheim
In April 1917, the daily newspaper La Dépêche de Toulouse – The Toulouse Wire – published Durkheim’s response to a survey entitled ‘The Politics of the Future’. Along with a number of politicians, economists and intellectuals, the sociologist was asked to give his opinion on party politics after the end of the war, and specifically on the country’s economic reconstruction.
It is quite difficult to diagnose the state of mind that France will be in at the end of the war, and accordingly what, at that time, will be the dominant political movement.
Jeffrey Alexander, Bernhard Giesen and Jason Mast (eds.), Social Performance: Symbolic Action, Cultural Pragmatics and Ritual, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006, 374 pp.
Ron Eyerman and Lisa McCormick (eds.), Myth, Meaning, and Performance: Toward a New Cultural Sociology of the Arts, Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2006, 166 pp.