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Total Aesthetics

Art and The Elemental Forms

William Watts Miller

A minor mystery is when Durkheim began and how he crafted and created his monumental work, Les formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse: le système totémique en Australie. The first evidence comes with lectures he started to give in 1906. They contain a sort of prototype of the eventual text, but, though important, make clear there was still a long way to go. And they were roundabout when he decided on major changes to the Année sociologique, in order, he explained, to give more time to personal research. The next evidence comes with two letters of 1908. In fact, they are where we first overhear him talk about 'my book' as a definite project. In one he is happy to do the introduction and some preliminary material as a couple of articles, which came out in 1909. In the other he is not at all happy to let a new idea just slip into the world, but wants to save it for development, with maximum impact, in 'my book' itself. Indeed, there was no further publication of bits of the book. There has been no further discovery of letters by him about its contents. And there has been no discovery of any drafts, let alone a final revised and corrected manuscript. In sum, there is a documentary blank for the three key creative years that led to the appearance, in summer 1912, of a masterpiece.

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William Watts Miller

It is important, in all the commentary on Durkheim's Elemental Forms, to take at least some notice of what he himself said it was about. So the importance of the term dynamogénique is that although he uses it on only four known occasions, these are all occasions when he himself comments on his newly published work and says what it is fundamentally about the dynamogenic influence of religion.

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William Watts Miller

It is just a basic point that a help with understanding a work is to understand something about the process of its creation. In the case of Les formes élémentaires, it is evident from the lecture-course reading like a first draft of the work, and begun in 1906 (1907f), that the project started life as a concern, above all, with the study of early elementary religion. But even here, the logic of Durkheim’s argument – especially in his critique of animist and naturist theories of early religion – required him to make claims about basic elemental characteristics of all religion. And it is evident from correspondence of 1908, as well as from an article he started to write the same year and got published the following year (1909d), that the project had converted into a concern, above all, with a way to get at and understand basic continuing elemental forms of all religion.

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William Watts Miller

Jennifer Mergy, ed., ‘Mauss et les durkheimiens’, L’Année sociologique, 54, 1, 2004.

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Introduction

The Lenoir-Durkheim Lecture Notes on L'enseignement de la morale

William Watts Miller

These are lectures on morality, attributed to Durkheim by Raymond Lenoir and given to Steven Lukes, who reproduced them in his doctoral thesis on Durkheim. They are published, here, together and in full for the first time. The first group of lectures covers the family, as well as general issues in morality and moral education. The second group of lectures, on civic ethics, covers citizenship, democracy, the state, occupational groups, law, and the idea of la patrie. The lectures conclude with a familiar discussion of discipline, and a more original discussion of duties to oneself. The editorial introduction to the lectures explains the circumstances in which they came to light, and discusses issues of authenticity but also of the general role, in Durkheimian studies, of texts variously attributed to Durkheim or based on notes by his students.

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William Watts Miller

To mark the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Durkheim’s birth, a number of conferences were held during 2008 – beginning at Epinal, his hometown, then at Oxford, Paris, São Paolo, Warsaw and Berlin. As part of the effort to record this effervescence of activity, with its many different lines of research, the present issue of our journal includes a selection of articles based on contributions to these conferences, while others are planned for inclusion in the next issue. At the same time, preparations are under way for the publication of collections on specific themes – on Durkheim’s roots, drawing on the conference at Epinal; on interpretations and applications of Durkheimian sociology in Brazil, drawing on the conference at São Paolo; and on the issue of solidarity, drawing on contributions to the conferences at Oxford and Berlin.

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William Watts Miller

Emile Durkheim, Il dualismo della natura umana e le sue condizione sociali, a cura di Giovanni Paoletti, Pisa: Edizioni ETS, 2009, 85 pp. [with introduction, notes and a critical edition, on parallel pages, of the original French text]

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A Major Discovery

Durkheim's Bordeaux University Library Loans

William Watts Miller

The discovery of registers recording Durkheim’s loans from Bordeaux University’s Arts and Science Library, and also his acquisition requests, presents scholars in the field with a vast and at the same time challenging mass of new material. Acknowledgements are due to Nicolas Sembel and Matthieu Béra for their combination of initiative and effort, after the initial discovery’s excitement, in looking for similar registers in the university’s Law and Medical Libraries, but also and not least in combing through the surviving records to work them up into readily accessible documents. In undertaking to publish the fruits of their research in this journal, it has been decided to do so in two stages. The first, in the present issue, consists of the documents themselves together with a commentary, in French, by Nicolas Sembel; this will be followed in the next issue by a commentary, in English, by Matthieu Béra.

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In Memoriam

W. S. F. Pickering

William Watts Miller

This records the life and work of William Stuart Frederick Pickering (1922–2016), an ordained Anglican priest and internationally acclaimed scholar affectionately known as ‘Bill’, who had a wide range of interests in the fields of sociology and theology, but who came to specialize, through the sociology of religion, in the work of Émile Durkheim, and who founded the British Centre for Durkheimian Studies, the University of Oxford. It includes a bibliography of his major publications and, on behalf of his many friends and colleagues in France, a personal tribute from Professor Jean-Christophe Marcel.

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Irène Eulriet and William Watts Miller

‘The Dualism of Human Nature’ was made available some time ago in English, and this undoubtedly helped to stimulate the mass of commentary that has grown around the essay and made it well-known. But it is time to replace the old translation, since it is so inadequate and fault-ridden. For example, it involves a systematic impulse to change a Durkheimian collective noun such as our will into English individualized plurals, such as ‘our wills’. Or it often cuts things out. Thus it eliminates Durkheim’s key talk of creative effervescence, which merely becomes ‘creativity’. An opposite tendency is to add things in.