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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