Between 1900 and 1912, Durkheim, Mauss and other contributors of the L’Année Sociologique developed the most ambitious philosophical project of modern anthropology: a comparative and worldwide social history of philosophical categories. This article briefly summarises three phases of the ‘Category Project’ and gives a preliminary characterisation of its Hegelian ambitions. Further, it points out the common denominator in the diverse success stories of the Category Project, namely the reference to the human body as the site of collective consciousness. In a second step, the article traces the intricate genesis and after-life of the most important category of bodily efficacy and epistemological insight provided by Durkheim and Mauss: the elaboration of ‘effervescence’ and its manifestation of ‘totality’.
Durkheim and Mauss's Intervention into the History of Philosophy
Erhard Schüttpelz and Martin Zillinger
Ruy Llera Blanes
In this article I explore the contemporary relevance of Émile Durkheim’s classic theory of anomie with respect to both the discipline of social anthropology and the study of politics in Africa. I take as a case study present-day, post-war Angola, where an activist mobilisation (the Revolutionary Movement) has engaged in what I call ‘anomic diagnostics’ in opposing the country’s current regime. Through a political reading of Durkheim’s theory, I suggest that, while the French author situates anomie and suicide as cause and consequence respectively within a conservative view of society, Angolan activists instead see anomie as the starting point for a progressive political proposition productive of rupture.
What, if not Durkheim’s ‘collective representations’ acquired during exalted states of effervescence, gives rise to society, culture and science? Marcel Mauss provides another answer by pointing to the different rhythms of social relationships and the human effort to synchronise them. The seasonal cycle of the Eskimo [Inuit], Mauss argues, is in accord with their game; hence people disperse in summer to pursue economic activities in small bands, while they congregate in dense house-complexes in winter and engage in ritual. It would appear that Mauss draws heavily on Boas’s contrast between the Kwakiutl winter celebrations and their ‘uninitiated’ livelihood in summer. These insights have traction for medical anthropologists who are interested in finding an anthropological explanation for the efficaciousness of ‘traditional’ medicines or ‘indigenous’ healing techniques.
Sienna R. Craig
We walked the spine of Montparnasse searching for Durkheim’s grave. Winter sun pinned us to sky, illuminating turrets and spires: ornate edges of civility in this city of sensuality and light.
An Introduction to the Problematique of Ukraine
Four years after the Revolution of Dignity, the Ukrainian society is passing through multiple parallel transitions. More often than not, the problematique of Ukraine is framed as a discussion of the speed and extent of reforms’ adoption. This article highlights the need to look in a more organic, interrelated manner, with attention to the sociospatial context that embeds all of the potential institutional change targeted by reforms. Using interviews and group discussions with public servants and civil society actors actively involved in the ongoing reform processes, this article zooms out from the rather fragmented reforms discussion to embed it in a broader societal context. It highlights crucial developments in the four quadrants of the social quality debate: the socioeconomic, the sociopolitical, the sociocultural/welfare, and the socioenvironmental dimension of societal life in postrevolution Ukraine.
Sacred Resources and the Quest for 'Life'
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.
An Alternative Genealogy of <i>The Elementary Forms of Religious Life</i>
Sondra L. Hausner
This article argues that, although we think of Australian tribal ritual as Durkheim’s source material for his masterwork The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, we must also consider the extensive Indological scholarship on which he draws – and with which he debates – as critical inspirations for the text. His extensive engagement with his nephew, Marcel Mauss, whose earlier work, Sacrifice, with Henri Hubert, was premised on an analysis of Vedic ritual, would have been one source for his study of religion writ large; Elementary Forms also takes up in detail the work of Max Müller, among other Indologists, whose work was well known and widely engaged with in the French and broader European intellectual context of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This article argues that the Indological comparative lens was key to Durkheim’s own approach as he worked to articulate the relationship between religion and society; in contrast to the philologists, he argued for the primacy of practice over language in ritual action.
As we are commemorating the centenary of Durkheim’s death in this issue, it seems appropriate to reflect on what we know about it. We know, of course, that he died on 15 November 1917 at the age of 59 – not a young age at which to die a hundred years ago, but not an old one, either. Also, we know that he died during World War I, but in his bed, unlike many of his younger colleagues, who died on the battlefield, including his own son.
Ferenc Bódi, Jenő Zsolt Farkas, and Péter Róbert
The focus of this article’s research was to measure and compare the social capacity, social quality, quality of life, and subjective well-being of four Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden) and four postsocialist countries known as the Visegrád Group (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia) in order to analyze similarities and differences. The analysis was conducted utilizing both micro and macro approaches. On the micro level, four new complex indicators were developed from the social well-being model of the 2012 European Social Survey, based on the social quality approach, while the macro-level analysis consisted of indicators from the Eurostat Regions database and the 2011 population census. The analysis demonstrates that using complex indicators and combining a micro-macro approach can complement each other, bringing about an understanding of nuances and subtle differences not found in singular approaches and creating a more accurate assessment of the social quality in local, city, and national levels of society.