A Note on Durkheim's Creation of Les Formes Élémentaires

in Durkheimian Studies
William Watts Miller British Centre for Durkheimian Studies wwattsmiller@gmail.com

Search for other papers by William Watts Miller in
Current site
Google Scholar

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.

  • Collapse
  • Expand