Ivan Strenski, The New Durkheim. New Brunswick (NJ) and London: Rutgers University Press, 2006, pp. 376.
Durkheim, Modernity and Doubts
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.
Evil and Suffering from a Durkheimian Perspective
After the End of a Dark Century: Philosophical and Theological Discourses on Evil, complex, highly interesting and full of religious, philosophical and existential implications. One has to hope that the theological and philosophical reflection on evil and suffering will also continue in a post-metaphysical world, even if this hope is part of an ongoing debate. As fascinating as these questions may be, I will not address any of the classical, philosophical and/or theological problems on evil in this paper. Rather than concentrating on this kind of approach to evil, I would like to try and offer a different way of dealing with a subject, which has long been neglected in the sociological field, and is almost absent among Durkheimian studies too. In other words, I would like to approach the problem of evil from a point of view similar to Durkheim?s sociology of religion. However, I will keep the modern philosophical turn in the theological discussion on evil as a background, since one of my objectives is to try and isolate the specific and distinctive characteristics of a Durkheimian idea of evil in the light of the modern transition from suffering to evil.
Theoretical and Social Radicalism in Durkheim
In the following discussion I am not going to examine point by point the arguments that shape this charge, basically because I believe that we are dealing with a wrongly addressed criticism. What I mean is that this charge draws its meaning from a conceptual framework too extrinsic to Durkheim's one, and in fact from the Marxian framework. It seems to me that the critics, but also the defenders, of Durkheim's work either explicitly or implicitly judged his theory's 'critical power'-its analytical capacity to read modernity, and its normative capacity to criticize its pathologies-with a single yardstick, namely the Marxian one. Pearce's The Radical Durkheim (1989) is perhaps the most explicit case in point. But it is still a judgement at work in the background-even when the 'critical power' of Durkheim thought is not directly at stake-as in the account of Durkheim's intellectual development in the certainly very instructive writings of Jeffrey Alexander (1982 and 1989). My point, on the contrary, is that Durkheim was not so obsessed with the confrontation with Marx. His theory was constructed with other material and was concerned at least in part with different problems, so that it cannot just be assessed with the same yardstick.
William Watts Miller, W. S. F. Pickering, Giovanni Paoletti, Massimo Rosati, Mike Hawkins, W. D. Halls, Jean de Lannoy, and Alexander T. Riley
Neil Gross and Robert Alun Jones (eds., trans.). Durkheim’s Philosophy Lectures: Notes from the Lycée de Sens Course, 1883-1884, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2004. pp. 339.
Massimo Borlandi and Giovanni Busino (eds.), ‘La sociologie durkheimienne: tradition et actualité. À Philippe Besnard, in memoriam’, Revue européenne des sciences sociales, XLII (129) 2004. pp.410.
Warren Schmaus. Rethinking Durkheim and His Tradition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2004. pp. 195.
Anne Warfield Rawls. Epistemology and Practice: Durkheim’s The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2005. pp. 355.
W. Schmaus, Rethinking Durkheim and His Tradition, and A. W. Rawls, Epistemology and Practice. Durkheim’s The Elementary Forms of Religious Life.
Jonathan S. Fish. Defending the Durkheimian Tradition: Religion, Emotion and Morality, Aldershot: Ashgate. 2005. pp. 207.
E. Dubreucq. Une éducation républicaine. Marion, Buisson, Durkheim, Paris: Vrin. 2004. pp. 236.
Annette Becker. Maurice Halbwachs. Un intellectuel en guerres mondiales, 1914-1945. Paris: Agnès Viénot. 2003. pp. 478.
Jeffrey Alexander. The Meanings of Social Life, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. 2003. pp. 296.
Randall Collins. Interaction Ritual Chains, Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press. 2004. pp. 464.
N. J. Allen, Roger Cotterell, Mike Hawkins, Jean-Christophe Marcel, Jennifer Mergy, David Moss, Robert Parkin, W. S. F. Pickering, Massimo Rosati, Sue Stedman Jones, and William Watts Miller
Notes on contributors
Irène Eulriet, W. D. Halls, Mike Hawkins, Jean-Louis Fabiani, Jean de Lannoy, Giovanni Paoletti, W. S. F. Pickering, Romain Pudal, Ilkka Pyysiäinen, Alexander T. Riley, Massimo Rosati, and W. Watts Miller
Notes on contributors