This essay asks why Durkheim was so opposed to free consensual unions, in a support for marriage and the family. But it is above all an attempt to explore the theoretical sources of his insistent and even dogmatic opposition to 'free unions'. Accordingly, it involves Durkheim's thinking about the sacred in two key areas. One centres round issues of filiation, and involves his account of totems, clans and the individual's social identity. The other centres round his view that individualism grows along with the increasing activity of the state, and involves interrelated questions of property, inheritance, the contract and the role of civil law. The result is a tension in his thought between an emphasis on the sacred as the origin of things and a more secular concern with the importance in modern life of moral relations expressed and regulated by civil law. Although his opposition to free unions has roots in 'children of the totem', it is suggested it is above all a modern concern with 'children of the law'.
Notes on the Filiation Bond in Emile Durkheim
A Society of Justice and Charity
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.
From the Family to the Groupe Professionnel
One of Durkheim's great 'unwritten books' was on the family. And one of the consequences has been insufficient attention to the issue's centrality in his work, and to the radical implications in the case of modern society. This essay is based on his lectures and articles on the family, but together with his many reviews on the subject in the Année sociologique. Given his evolutionary approach, a start is made with his interest in the origins and development of the family. But this helps to underline the far-reaching implications of his view that the modern family has narrowed down to the conjugal family. In a way the individual is emancipated from the bonds of kinship. But it is in a transformation of inheritance into an essentially private affair. Solidarity requires a rebuilding of links across the generations, while justice require a re-collectivization of inherited wealth, through new occupational groups.
l'acte de 'donner' chez Simmel et Durkheim
Luca Guizzardi and Luca Martignani
This focuses on a key topic for comparison of two masters of sociological thought, Georg Simmel and Émile Durkheim: the question of giving in the context of social exchange. Durkheim deals with the issue in introducing the concept of organic solidarity, based on the division of social labour and implying the interdependence of individuals. This representation of solidarity links with the interest in credit and debt relations in Simmel's philosophy of money and with a perspective in which reciprocity is conceived as one of the main sociological functions involved in the representation of social bonds. After a comparison of Durkheim and Simmel's theories of reciprocity, a specific case discussed is the mortgage, conceived as a paradigm of the shape assumed by the immaterial reality of reciprocity in institutional and everyday life.