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The Mystery of Some 'Last Things' of Émile Durkheim

Notes for a Research Project

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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