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From Solidarity to Social Inclusion

The Political Transformations of Durkheimianism

Derek Robbins

The article begins with Pierre Rosanvallon's account of the mutations of 'Jacobin ideology' and the function of sociology in criticising this in France at the end of the nineteenth century. I suggest it was not Durkheim's intention simply to criticise a 'Jacobin' form of political ideology. Rather, it was to construct an affinity between sociological explanation and social facts, such that sociological discourse would appropriate the sphere of the political and take part, by so doing, in the constitution of a participative social democracy. I then touch on the post-mortem academicisation of Durkheim's work in France between the wars, to ask if the emergent Durkheimianism neutralised Durkheim's original socio-political intentions. This leads to a discussion of the resurgent domination of the discourse of politics in the 1960s, as manifested in Aron's critiques of Durkheim and in his defence of constitutional law at the beginning of the Fifth Republic, but also to an examination of Bourdieu's attempt to retrieve Durkheim's original orientation and to revive the political dynamism of social movements. I comment on the analysis, made in the 1970s by Bourdieu (and Boltanski), of the construction of the dominant postwar ideology in French politics, which includes their critique of 'planification' and of the work, amongst others, of Jacques Delors. They saw the language used by the newly dominant political managers as exploiting the sociological discourse of 'solidarity' and 'social exclusion', not to realize its intentions, but to reinforce their own control. I briefly consider the argument's implications for an analysis of European Commission social policy initiatives during the presidency of Delors, comment on the British Conservative government's objections in the 1980s and 1990s to the very use of this language, and ask if the Labour government's adoption of the discourse of 'social inclusion' in 1997 was indicative of either a political or a social agenda. Finally, I return to Rosanvallon and situate his work politically within the ideological debate of 1995 between him and Bourdieu. It is to conclude with the suggestion that Rosanvallon's apparent disinclination to recognize the importance of Durkheim's work is indicative of his present position-taking, which necessarily entails a suppression of Durkheim's real intentions.

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Derek Robbins

The title rightly suggests that I shall be attempting to give a view of Bourdieu’s perception of Durkheim. I shall not try to judge whether Bourdieu’s perception of Durkheim was correct, nor shall I seek to compare the validity of the positions adopted by Durkheim and Bourdieu. Instead, I shall concentrate on the general context of Bourdieu’s view of Durkheim and focus on Bourdieu’s references to Durkheim in two important texts – the first is an article entitled ‘Sociology and Philosophy in France since 1945: death and resurrection of a philosophy without subject’, published in Social Research in 1967, and the second a book published in 1968 with the title: Le métier de sociologue. It should also be noted that the article was written in collaboration with Jean-Claude Passeron and the book was written in collaboration with Jean-Claude Chamboredon as well as Jean-Claude Passeron (referred to throughout as Bourdieu et al.). I focus on Bourdieu’s view of Durkheim’s work, but one of the points which will become clear is that Bourdieu found it difficult to dissociate his judgement of Durkheim’s intellectual endeavour from his view of Durkheim’s social significance and from his view of the adverse influence of the Durkheimians. I shall make two asides which will suggest ways in which it is clear that the development of Bourdieu’s thinking and career was affected by the consequences of Durkheim’s influence rather more than by the substance of his writing.

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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)

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Louise Child, Ronjon Paul Datta, Mike Gane, Timothy Jenkins, Jean-Christophe Marcel, David Moss, W. S. F. Pickering, William Ramp, Derek Robbins, Raymond de la Rocha Mille, Anne de Sales, Sue Stedman Jones and William Watts Miller

Notes on contributors