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Moral Humanism and the Question of Holism

Historical Reflections

Susan Stedman Jones

This paper explores the nature of Durkheim’s theoretical language concerning the whole and the individual. I look at the questions of holism and individualism throughout his thought, but I particularly focus on ‘L’individualisme et les intellectuels’, where he enters the debate over the Dreyfus affair, espousing the language of intellectual and moral right. I examine the historical and philosophical background of this and the tensions between individualism and socialism, within neglected aspects of French political history. Here a new language of individuality and right was forged, not simply through the pressure of events, but through a re-thinking of socialist holism from within a philosophical tradition.

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Action and the Question of the Categories

A Critique of Rawls

Susan Stedman Jones

Durkheim's account of the categories is re-examined, in a critique of the fundamentally mistaken and philosophically uninformed interpretation put forward in Rawls's Epistemology and Practice (2004). This converts Durkheim into a pragmatist, even a behaviourist, more or less reducing conscience to an epiphenomenon of sounds, movements, and socially generated raw emotions. She bypasses the key role of representations and symbols, while her emphasis on collective 'forces' ignores Durkheim's concern with power as puissance and with the creativity of an effervescent fusion of energies. Thus action is central to his account of the categories, but not in the terms offered by Rawls. For action involves the full range of the functions of conscience. And these come into play through the power of representations and symbols, as an integral part of a whole creative fusion of energies and consciences in the 'dynamogenics' of collective action.

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Functionalism of Mind and Functionalism of Society

The Concept of Conscience and Durkheim's Division of Social Labour

Susan Stedman Jones

This essay examines Durkheim's functionalism, to argue that it cannot be adequately understood through later movements of structural functionalism, especially Parsonian functionalism. Concretely, for Durkheim, the function of the division of labour is to create solidarity but this runs into the problem of modern pathologies. More abstractly, his functionalism has two essential sets of components, and it is only through the relation between these that it is possible to grasp his argument and its full significance. One involves ideas of correspondence, tendency and action, so that function has to do with a set of 'living movements' and how it corresponds with social needs. The other involves a functionalism of mind, and above all centres round the idea of conscience as a set of epistemological, representative and practical functions. Durkheim's functionalism relates these two components in a concern with the power of critical reflection on existing patterns of society, and with how conscience releases the force of agency, to have a transformative potential on the ills of society.

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Book Reviews

Jean Terrier, Dominique Merillé, A. M. C. Waterman, Susan Stedman Jones, Nick Allen, Mike Gane, and Caitlin Meagher

Émile Durkheim. Hobbes à l’agrégation. Un cours d’Émile Durkheim suivi par Marcel Mauss, edited by Jean-François Bert, Paris: Editions EHESS (Collection ‘Audiographie’), 2012, 64 pp.

Émile Durkheim, Les Règles de la méthode sociologique, édition établie par Jean-Michel Berthelot et présentée par Laurent Mucchielli, Paris, Flammarion (coll. « Champs classiques », n° 879), 2010, 336 pp.

Philippe Steiner. Durkheim and the Birth of Economic Sociology, translated by Keith Tribe, Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2011, viii + 249 pp.

Jean Terrier. Visions of the Social: Society as a Political Project in France 1750–1950, Brill: Leiden and Boston, 2011, xxxi + 216pp.

Jean-François Bert. Marcel Mauss, Henri Hubert et la sociologie des religions. Penser et écrire à deux, Paris: La Cause des Livres, 2012, 171 pp.

Derek Robbins. French Post-War Social Theory, London: Sage, 2012, 193 pp.

Anni Greve. Sanctuaries of the City: Lessons from Tokyo, Farnham: Ashgate, 2011, 206 pp.