In this article I explore the continued salience of Durkheimian effervescence through an examination of ritual activities contained within contemporary English cathedrals. My argument focuses less on collective occasions of creative or destructive tumult and more on ritualised forms of action where modalities of engagement and participation are nuanced, reflexively negotiated and small-scale. My aim is to render more subtle – and potentially productive – our understandings of gradations in ritual intensity.
Durkheim in the Cathedral
Roy Rappaport and Jeffrey C. Alexander
Durkheim's 'second program of research' above all refers to his project as developed in Les formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse. This essay examines how it has in turn been developed and taken up nowadays in the work of Roy Rappaport and Jeffrey Alexander. Both of them are concerned with the centrality of ritual and the sacred as active, constitutive elements not just of religion but of all social life, not least modern social life. However, a key difference between them can be found in the issue of the internal dimension of ritual and of the individual's participation in public performance of this. Rappaport emphasizes some sort of general notion of acceptance, in an effort to open up things and get away from the particular epistemological as well as theological commitments of the idea of belief. Alexander still appears to work with the modernist epistemology and 'Protestant' theology of belief. His project of a new Durkheimian cultural sociology has nonetheless itself opened up all kinds of things, and is one of the most creative and dynamic research programs in sociology nowadays.
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.
A Durkheimian Perspective
In this article, I use a reading of The Elementary Forms of Religious Life to show the relevance of the sociological point of view developed by Durkheim in the analysis and understanding of issues related to the religious conflicts that affect contemporary societies. In particular, I focus on the definition of the critical social function of religion, based on a certain conception of the necessities of action in society and on a gradual transformation of the idea of salvation into a secular context.
Ritual, Social Change and Les Formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse
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.
Durkheim and Mauss's Intervention into the History of Philosophy
Erhard Schüttpelz and Martin Zillinger
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’.
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.
The city is a key location of the modern social world, a home of rootlessness and transient everyday encounters between individuals. This essay explores the idea of 'the sanctuary' as a way in which people look for anchorage, and create and re-create images of a society, to cope with and negotiate life in the city. It mainly draws on Durkheim's work on ritual, symbolism and the sacred, together with his account of individual and collective representations. But it also discusses these concerns though other writers, notably Freud and Ricœur, and it draws on Kant's theory of art to introduce how Durkheim sees ritual -especially sacred drama - as at once a symbolism and an aesthetics, complete with the energies of a free creative 'surplus'. Even if in the end 'the sanctuary' is unequal to the marketplace, it is a necessary refuge of the transformative social imagination and a realm, not of everyday economics, but of civitas.
Gilles Montigny, Kenneth Thompson, Derek Robbins, and William Ramp
Bernard Valade (dir.). Durkheim. L’institutionnalisation de la sociologie, (coll. Débats philosophiques), Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, 2008, 171 pp.
Massimo Rosati. Ritual and the Sacred: A Neo-Durkheimian Analysis of Politics, Religion and the Self, Farnham and Burlington: Ashgate, 2009, 163 pp.
Frédéric Keck. Lucien Lévy-Bruhl. Entre philosophie et anthropologie. Contradiction et participation, Paris: CNRS Editions, 2008.
Christian Borch and Tiina Arppe (eds.), ‘The Sacred’, Special Issue, Distinktion: Scandinavian Journal of Social Theory, no. 19, Aarhus: University of Aarhus, 2009 (www.unipress.dk)
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.