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In Memoriam

Philippe Besnard (1942–2003)

W. S. F. Pickering

The British Centre for Durkheimian Studies has suffered a severe blow with the sad death of Philippe Besnard. He has continually supported the Centre from the time when it was founded in 1991, and indeed he might be called one of its ‘founding fathers’.

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Introduction

Durkheim's Contribution to the Debate on the Separation of Church and State in 1905

W. S. F. Pickering

This is the first English translation of Durkheim's contribution to an important debate on the separation of church and state (1905) - in the course of which he remarked, to an outburst from those present, that 'From a sociological point of view, the Church is a monstrosity'. The translation comes with an introduction and editorial notes by W. S. F. Pickering, explaining the background to the debate, identifying the participants, and recommending some of the many books and articles on the issue.

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In Memoriam

Rodney Needham (1923–2006)

W. S. F. Pickering

Rodney Needham died on 3 December, 2006, at the age of 83 after a longish illness. Influenced by Evans-Pritchard, he has been called the foremost British anthropologist of his day. He was Professor of Social Anthropology in Oxford from 1976 to 1990. Although far from being enamoured with the work of Durkheim, he showed a strong sympathy for the work of some of his disciples and was instrumental in bringing their work to the notice of English-speaking scholars. Amongst his great output of books and articles – about four hundred – there appeared in 1960 a translation of two essays by Robert Hertz with the title, Death and the Right Hand.

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W. S. F. Pickering

References to Durkheim in Jewish periodicals and newspapers are hard to find. We are grateful to the late Etienne Halphen for having drawn our attention to two such items, which relate to the death of Durkheim. Both of them allude to Durkheim’s work on behalf of Russian Jews during the War. Reference might therefore be made to two letters on the issue, by Durkheim himself and by A. Lévy, the Grand Rabbi of France, discovered by Jennifer Mergy and published with an introduction and notes by her in Durkheimian Studies / Etudes durkheimiennes, 2000, n.s. 6: 1–4.

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The Response of Catholic and Protestant Thinkers to the Work of Emile Durkheim

With Special Reference to Les formes élémentaires

W. S. F. Pickering

This article attempts to record and examine the way that Catholic and Protestant thinkers reacted to Durkheim's work. The bulk, but by no means all, of their reflections relate to religion, especially after the publication of Les formes élémentaires. Surprisingly, there were some who praised Durkheim for his clarity and imagination. The specific aspects of his work dealt with here are: the nature of religion, its definition, the role of the social and individual, the nature of God, effervescent gatherings. In relation to these, and other topics, the writings of Catholics such as Besse, Bureau, Deploige, Lemonnyer, and Protestants, Boegner, Bois, Richard, Paul Sabatier, are considered. One conclusion is that, surprisingly or otherwise, the substantial criticisms of Durkheim are similar to both Catholics and Protestants. Another is that this kind of material is a necessary prelude to the study of the later development of the sociology of religion in France.

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W. S .F. Pickering

In Durkheim’s time, Gustave Belot was an active, well-known participant in debates on social issues. Nowadays he is a marginal, largely forgotten figure. This essay aims to provide an introduction to his life and work, in which he was in many ways sympathetic with Durkheim’s project for a social science but was also highly critical of it. The discussion concentrates on Belot’s position on ethics and religion, to bring out where he supported Durkheim and where he attacked him on these two areas of central concern to them both. In particular, it focuses on Durkheim’s critique of Belot’s Etudes de morale positive, then in turn on Belot’s critique of Durkheim’s Formes élémentaires.

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W. S. F. Pickering

For most of Durkheim’s admirers it all ended when he died on 15 November 1917. Or at least one is apt to get that impression in reading the classic study of Durkheim’s life by Steven Lukes (1973). He concludes his book, as indeed he intended to, with the death of the great pioneer of sociology in France. Lukes knew, as we all know, that Durkheim’s death did not mean the end of the appearance of items written by him. Attempts were made by a decimated Année sociologique group under the far less affi rmative leadership of Durkheim’s nephew, Marcel Mauss, to continue along the path set by the great master. Former manuscripts and letters of Durkheim’s were published as members of the group continued to write about him and propagate his ideas.1 But in one very certain way, his empire had come to an end. Beyond 1917, the general interest in France, that had been so strong in the first two decades of the twentieth century, waned. All that followed had to be seen as something that was purely historical, albeit a small number of disciples endeavoured to extend their master’s ideas.

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W. S. F. Pickering

It is well known that Durkheim’s appointment to the Sorbonne in 1902 was to take up a post in education which became vacant when Ferdinand Buisson left the University to enter politics’ service once more. Buisson had been Director of Primary Education between 1879 and 1896. Durkheim’s appointment was initially as chargé du cours de Science de l’Education, although in Bordeaux he had held professorial rank. In the Paris appointment there was no mention of sociology. Then in 1906 it was decided that the time had come to fill the chair of the Science of Education. It was for the Faculty in the Sorbonne under the chairmanship of the Dean, A. Croiset, to nominate a candidate to the Minister of Higher Education. In the minutes of the Conseil de la Faculté for 16 June, 1906, it is by no means the case that Durkheim, who was a strong candidate, was without serious opposition.1 As is seen below, Bouglé, who was then in Toulouse, was not far behind him and Durkheim’s success was in no way a walk-over. It might also be noticed that Durkheim was not universally popular among teachers at the Sorbonne, let alone among Parisian academics outside the university (see Lukes 1973:363).

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W. S. F. Pickering

A local historian of Epinal and professor at the Lycée wrote a short article in La Liberté de l’Est on Durkheim as a native of Espinal and a ‘grand philosophe’. The author, Robert Javelet (1914-86), had become a friend of Henri Durkheim (1881-1978) – the only child of Joseph Félix Durkheim, Emile Durkheim’s elder brother. Henri’s mother died when he was very young, and his father died in 1889. Uncle Emile, who had married in 1887, became very much the orphan’s guardian and adopted father. Henri and Marcel Mauss, who was a little older than himself, lived in Bordeaux for several years. Henri became a judge on the outskirts of Paris. His acquaintance with Javelet must have occurred on Henri’s visits to Epinal. It was from his conversations with Henri Durkheim that Javelet constructed this article.

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W. S. F. Pickering

From its historical root the word croyance refers to religious belief. It is associated with an assertion relating to a religious proposition. Such propositions (beliefs) have sometimes been gathered together to form a creed, as recited by Christians in public worship, or which can be held to be a test of orthodoxy (see Ruel 1982).