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Society as Representation

Durkheim, Psychology and the 'Dualism of Human Nature'

Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi

Against readings that have emphasized Durkheim's sociological realism and reductionism, this article examines the role of individuality and psychology in his theory. In particular, Durkheim's approach to representations is the proof of the crucial importance he assigned to mental processes in the construction of social life. Durkheim showed the relation of representations to the collectivity – how ideas promote the sense of community – and in this context he emphasized their epistemological ramifications. Specifically, he pointed to a series of dualisms that remained unexplained by psychological analysis, including the one posing rational against affective logic. While arguing for the preeminence of ideas in Durkheim's view of society, the article also recognizes the limitations that marred his efforts at reconciling the individual with society. Most notably, his genetic approach and his account of the central role of affect in the creation of the social made Durkheim vulnerable to criticism. Even his late essay on the dualism of human nature, which testifies to his lifelong confrontations with psychology, left a whole set of questions unanswered about his theory's applicability to historical forms of institutionalization of the social, especially in modernity.

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Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi and Robert Parkin

Alexander Riley, W. S. F. Pickering and William Watts Miller (eds.), Durkheim, the Durkheimians and the Arts - Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi

Robert Hertz, Sociologie religieuse et anthropologie : deux enquêtes de terrain (1912–1915), ed. S. Baciocchi and Nicolas Mariot - Robert Parkin

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Robert Parkin, W. S. F. Pickering, and Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi

Robert Hertz. OEuvres publiées: édition critique, ed. Cyril Isnart, Paris: Classiques Garniers, 2014, 466 pp. Review by Robert Parkin

Matthieu Béra. Emile Durkheim à Bordeaux (1887–1902), Bordeaux: Éditions Confluences, 2014, 135 pp. Review by W. S. F. Pickering

Alexander Riley, The Social Thought of Émile Durkheim, Los Angeles and London: Sage, 2015, xi + 263 pp. Review by W. S. F. Pickering

Sondra Hausner (ed.), Durkheim in Dialogue: A Centenary Celebration of The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, New York and Oxford: Berghahn, 2013, 267 pp. Review by Simonetta Falasca-Zamponi