Book Reviews

in Durkheimian Studies
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  • 1 Grenoble Alps University marine.dhermy@gmail.com
  • 2 University of Lausanne Jean-Francois.Bert@unil.ch
  • 3 University of Strasbourg baudry.du@gmail.com

Maurice Halbwachs. Keynes, abstraction et expérience. Sur la théorie générale, Gilles Montigny (éd.). Paris : Éditions rue d’Ulm / Presses de l’École normale supérieure, 2016, 205pp.

Compte rendu par Marine Dhermy-Mairal

À la faveur d’un intérêt croissant des historiens de la sociologie pour l’œuvre de Maurice Halbwachs, Gilles Montigny propose dans cette petite publication des éditions de l’École normale supérieure, consacrées aux « Figures normaliennes », quatre textes d’Halbwachs quasi-pionniers sur la Théorie générale de l’emploi, de l’intérêt et de la monnaie de John Maynard Keynes. Les deux premiers sont des notices bibliographiques parues en 1938 dans les Annales sociologiques. L’un concerne un ouvrage de Joan Robinson intitulé Essays in the Theory of Employment, que Halbwachs présente comme étant des essais inspirés de la pensée de Keynes. L’autre rend rapidement compte du livre de Keynes The General Theory of Unemployment, Interest and Money. Suivent enfin deux comptes-rendus plus conséquents sur la théorie keynésienne parus en 1940 : l’un est intitulé « Keynes et son école », édité dans l’ouvrage de Halbwachs Sociologie économique et démographie ; l’autre a pour titre « La « théorie générale » de John Meynard Keynes » et fut publié dans les Annales sociologiques.

Composé d’une longue introduction, de nombreuses notes critiques et d’une bibliographie conséquente, cet ouvrage permet de mettre en valeur une facette relativement méconnue du sociologue, celle d’un Halbwachs économiste, et de réaffirmer ainsi, avec François Simiand parmi d’autres, l’existence d’une solide tradition de sociologie économique durkheimienne, déjà attestée, du reste, par un certain nombre de sociologues, à commencer par Philippe Steiner. Ignorés pendant longtemps, très rapidement et trop rarement mentionnés, il était temps, enfin, d’exhumer ces documents, ne serait-ce que pour compenser leur relatif oubli par les historiens qui se sont intéressés à la réception des travaux de Keynes en France. Maurice Halbwachs fut en effet le deuxième commentateur français de l’ouvrage de Keynes, sans doute lu par lui en anglais dans son édition d’origine, à une époque où le britannique recevait pourtant très peu d’attention de la part des économistes en France. La diffusion de ces textes est donc essentielle et l’introduction que propose Gilles Montigny permet d’en cerner les multiples enjeux.

Deux interrogations majeures se dégagent : premièrement, pour quelle raison Maurice Halbwachs s’est-il intéressé à la Théorie générale de Keynes ? Deuxièmement, pourquoi un tel silence des historiens de la pensée économique pour ces comptes-rendus ? Il est clair que l’attention du sociologue à l’œuvre de Keynes ne devrait étonner personne : son intérêt pour l’économie est non seulement ancien, mais il s’est en outre exprimé par la publication d’une masse importante d’ouvrages, articles et comptes-rendus de lecture. Gilles Montigny estime ainsi à plus de la moitié la quantité de travaux consacrés à l’économie par le sociologue durkheimien. Ensuite, un certain nombre de points communs rapprochaient Halbwachs de Keynes : leur critique de l’économie classique et néo-classique, leur intérêt pour le calcul des probabilités – encore très peu connu au-delà des cercles mathématiques –, ainsi que l’esquisse d’une forme de psychologie comportementale des consommateurs. La Théorie générale était donc susceptible d’attirer l’attention de Halbwachs, et ce qui devrait nous étonner serait plutôt le désintérêt des économistes français pour cet ouvrage et plus largement pour la pensée de Keynes. Les raisons de ce désintérêt, bien entendu, sont complexes et Gilles Montigny ne fait que les esquisser en invoquant un contexte très peu favorable au keynésianisme à partir du milieu des années 1930, dans les milieux aussi bien politiques qu’intellectuels. Le silence entourant les comptes-rendus de Halbwachs n’en aurait d’ailleurs été que le contrecoup.

Pour un lecteur des durkheimiens, ces comptes-rendus sont rédigés dans un esprit fidèle à celui qui fut celui de l’Année sociologique à ses débuts : c’est pour son grand intérêt sociologique qu’Halbwachs choisit l’ouvrage de Keynes, et l’on sent bien que la rupture relative de ce dernier vis-à-vis de l’économie classique et néo-classique a enthousiasmé le sociologue. Cette rupture cependant, ne lui semblait pas assumée, car sa méthode restait « fidèle … à la méthode dialectique abstraite » (p.68). Il vit surtout dans l’ouvrage de Keynes une preuve empirique selon laquelle le théoricien est toujours mû, « à son insu », par des analyses issues de l’expérience, y compris au plus haut degré de conceptualisation. Si la théorie générale de Keynes rompait avec l’économie classique, l’auteur le devait surtout à l’évolution des conditions économiques de son temps : « forger de nouvelles notions, faire intervenir de nouvelles hypothèses » devenait nécessaire pour saisir une situation historique où le plein-emploi n’était plus assuré, preuve que les concepts de l’économie dépendent très largement de la réalité du moment. Halbwachs apportait alors le coup de massue décisif aux travaux de Keynes, directement visé ici : « ce qui est grave, c’est que le théoricien est tout à fait incapable alors d’assigner la part de réalité qui s’introduit à son insu dans ses conceptions. Or, on ne fait pas sa part au réel. Il faut le prendre tout entier ou pas du tout » (p.97). Ces comptes-rendus furent donc l’occasion pour Halbwachs d’une défense en ordre d’une sociologie économique attentive à la variation des phénomènes et soucieuse de partir du réel : c’est à travers les yeux du « maître de la sociologie économique positive » François Simiand qu’Halbwachs lut le travail de Keynes. Un Halbwachs économiste, oui, mais, là encore, un Halbwachs dans les pas de Simiand : il n’est pas certain que la publication de ces comptes-rendus servent à montrer l’originalité de sa pensée.

Maurice Halbwachs, Écrits d’Amérique, Christian Topalov (ed.), Paris, ed. Ehess, 2012, 454 pp.

Review by Marine Dhermy-Mairal

Good books can usually be read through different perspectives. Topalov’s detailed edition of Maurice Halbwachs, Écrits d’Amérique, is a case in point. This book helps to deepen our understanding of the history of Durkheimian social sciences by focusing on Halbwachs’s discovery of ‘an original school of sociology’, which came to be known in the late 1940s as the Chicago School of Sociology. Topalov has highlighted the merits of a micro--sociological analysis of past scientific practices, turning away from a pure internal reading of scientific texts. He has finally proposed a theoretical scheme, which can be useful for any social scientists interested in the sociology of science or the theory of knowledge. My review will consider these three contributions.

Écrits d’Amérique (‘Writings from America’) consists of a series of documents written by Halbwachs during his stay in the United States between September and December 1930, and then in the years following his return. Visiting professor at the University of Chicago Sociology Department, he used his free time to visit the city and to work in the library. His output as a tourist and social scientist was diverse, ranging from private and semi--private correspondence to public newspaper articles and academic papers and presentations. After a dense introductory essay, Topalov divides these writings into three types that form the general structure of the book. The first part includes Halbwachs’s private correspondence with his family and beloved wife, in letters that form a kind of diary. They are followed by an official correspondence with the University of Chicago, as well as by letters to American colleagues and French friends, such as Albert Thomas, Henri Piéron and Marcel Mauss. The second part brings together eight articles that Halbwachs sent to Le Progrès de Lyon, a French socialist newspaper that published them under the heading ‘Letters from the United States’. The third and final part contains two well-known scientific papers that he produced in 1931 and 1932 and an oral presentation given at the Institut Français de Sociologie in 1933. Halbwachs was no longer based in the US, however, and this final part would be better understood as ‘writings on America’. Each type of document is preceded by a short introduction, in an organizational system that on the whole is very clear, congenial and fluent.

Topalov’s first ambition, as he puts it at the very beginning of his introduction, was to correct misconceptions in the history of social science in France, which claimed that Halbwachs, on returning from the US, had introduced the Chicago School of Sociology to the French. His arguments against this claim are both relevant and convincing. In warning against a Whig history of science’s retrospective fallacy, he is not just concerned with pure internal meanings but focuses on material bibliography and on the micro-social context of the production and circulation of texts. His detailed biographical approach helps us to reconsider frozen historical views on the topic. It provides the opportunity to combine a ‘quasi--ethnography of a travelling scientist’s day-to-day practices’ with a ‘micro-sociological description of everyday interactions’ (p. 12). Topalov builds a list of the people Halbwachs met, the books he read and the places he visited, while also highlighting places he did not visit and the reasons why. In the introduction, moreover, he raises questions about the general context that led Halbwachs to come and teach at Chicago in the winter of 1930. An effort to understand the French reception of the Chicago School of Sociology must begin by studying the reception’s main conveyors and its dependence on these.

After clarifying this context through the correspondence with official authorities before Halbwachs left for the States, Topalov describes the academic milieu that welcomed him. The sociology department was divided between ‘ethnographers’ and ‘statisticians’, and Halbwachs was quickly enrolled in the statistical faction, thanks to his regular and friendly contacts with the department’s main quantitative sociologist, William F. Ogburn. This certainly helped to increase misunderstandings between Halbwachs and the ethnographers, such as Robert Park and Ernest Burgess. He was blunt about their work’s scientific credentials. But his Durkheimian training, based on second-hand data, probably also made it difficult for him to appreciate their ethnographic approach, which he saw as simple entertainment and indeed as stupid, although not useless. What was missing was comparison, and modern readers might smile at the French sociologist’s negative reaction when Burgess proposed to him site visits of murders and murderers. Halbwachs was a book reader. While in the US, his working office was at the university library, where he spent a lot of time, copying out, compiling and analysing statistics. Just like many of his French sociological colleagues, his main training had been in philosophy, and he sought emancipation by founding theories on ‘facts’. Facts were his fieldwork, and were to be found in books and administrative papers. This may explain why Halbwachs often felt isolated during his stay. He privileged what Topalov calls ‘choses vues’ and ‘choses lues’ – things seen and read – and rarely engaged in conversation with ordinary people or even academics. He behaved more like a tourist by observing the city from within a friend’s or a colleague’s car, so that his understanding of Chicago remained purely ‘virtual’ (p. 55).

His mediated knowledge of the American city raises questions about the nature of materials that were used to shape his scientific conceptions. Comparing the three different types of writing is accordingly a brilliant idea: letters and newspaper articles let us better understand alleged incoherencies in his scientific writings. Topalov of course denies a lack of coherence, but suggests that these heterogeneous writings are cognitively united through practical interactions between scientific activities and those as a scientist living in the world (pp. 73–74). Put another way, and coming back to it later, a scientist cannot totally get away from prejudices of the time.

This takes us to the climax of Christian Topalov’s narrative. Chicago life was a real experience for Halbwachs. But instead of changing the analytical frames dictated by Durkheimian sociology, he tried to turn a disturbing alterity into an already known scheme of thinking. He analysed Chicago as if it were Paris or any European city. The differences he kept pointing out in his newspaper articles were smoothed over in his scientific papers by what he observed statistically as a profound similarity, not least the lack of integration of industrial workers. Thus, on the one hand, the population’s ethnic distribution was just an illusion that concealed the real division between social classes. On the other hand, he admitted two exceptions to his model: black people and Jews could not be integrated. His reasons are difficult to understand nowadays. These were definitely not based on any biological conception of race. In the case of black people, for instance, he seemed to think that their hierarchical position and their economic conditions would prevent them from ever being integrated at all. Ethnicity rose up here, but in a conception of race that remains sociological. To explain it, Topalov makes an interesting hypothesis: Halbwachs’s inability to get rid of ethnicity had its roots in the ‘ordinary racism of colonialist France’ (p. 68). His scientific preferences led him to put forward economic and social differences as the driving force of non-integration, but his ordinary preferences pushed him to keep ethnic differences on the agenda when the model did not fit. A collective psychology in France oriented his eyes towards social classes, but when looking at the American population he seemed to limit himself to a psychologie des peuples.

The first two types of documents included in the book were written in the United States, and it has already been suggested that, in contrast with these, the third type could have been entitled ‘writings on America’. As a tourist, Maurice Halbwachs was affected by the American way of life, which he perceived as really different from the European one. His news-paper articles and private letters from America contained plenty of personal feelings, ordinary prejudices and situated comments. His scientific production on America was more detached and based on statistics, although somewhat intertwined with implicit modes of reasoning that made Halbwachs a person of his time. As Topalov puts it, Halbwachs ‘had awoken’ from his tourist anaesthetic when going on to write ‘Chicago, expérience ethnique’. Although my own, rather than Topalov’s, this distinction between ‘writings from America’ and ‘writings on America’ stands at the core of his account. His introduction asked about the relationship between common perceptions such as those of ordinary people and the cognitive categories embedded in sociological writings. Comparison of the conditions of production of his book’s documents allowed him to explore how a social scientist tries to produce an uninvolved discourse on the basis of a mixture of partial observations, personal feelings and readings. Yet what is the best way to combine such evidence and impressions, and visiting as a tourist with collecting statistics in books? We face here the difficult issue of what Norbert Elias termed the passage from involvement to detachment. The conclusion drawn by Christian Topalov is astonishing: Halbwachs’s personal feelings were integrated in a scientific discourse that, far from questioning his ordinary prejudices, reinforced them. Science and prejudices justified themselves in a circle. This hypothesis should seriously disturb views of the sociologist’s ‘scientific discourse’ as only a formal arrangement of ordinary preconceived ideas. The accusation is not new, but the question remains of how we can take up the challenge. Topalov’s answer seems to lie in the practice of history: in his eyes, only a temporal distance is able to make us see these circular processes. But we are then confronted with an infinite regression: the discourse of historians on the past is itself situated in time and space, so that their observations risk being anchored, once more, in unconscious prejudices.

Let me end this review with a minor regret, which probably calls for a new book: that there is little or nothing on the American reception of Durkheimian sociology in the 1930s. Halbwachs taught two classes while in the US, the first on French sociology and the second on suicide. His private letters to his wife show that he was quite satisfied with his students, who often invited him to be with them to hear what he had to say. It would be fascinating to find any proof of an impact of his teaching on his students’ writings, but in the meantime Topalov’s discovery has been a real opening and opportunity for the history of sociology so far.

Stefan Czarnowski, Lettres à Henri Hubert et à Marcel Mauss / Listy do Henri Huberta i Marcela Maussa (1905–1937), bilingual edition, translated by Damien Thiriet, presented by Kornelia Kon´czasl and Joanna Wawrzyniak. Warsaw, Oficyna Naukowa, (Biblioteka Mys´li Socjologicznej, 11) 2015.

Compte rendu par Jean-François Bert

On sait depuis longtemps maintenant que la correspondance est un moyen d’entrer dans la « fabrique » des sciences, qui plus est des sciences sociales1. En décidant de travailler sur la figure de Stefan Czarnowski (1879–1937) à partir des lettres qu’il envoya à Henri Hubert et à Marcel Mauss, entre 1905 à 1937, les auteurs nous apportent un éclairage nouveau tant sur le groupe des durkheimiens (en creux nous apprenons beaucoup de nouvelles choses sur Mauss, Hubert et Durkheim), sur les amitiés intellectuelles qui se forment et de déforment au cours du temps, mais aussi et plus généralement sur l’histoire de la sociologie en France et en Pologne, et donc sur les transferts intellectuels internationaux de la première moitié du vingtième siècle.

Si ce livre est attendu, c’est surtout pour son évocation de la figure oubliée de Stefan Czarnowski qui, malheureusement, n’a donné lieu jusque là qu’à trop peu de commentaires de la part des durkheimiens. Son parcours est complexe. Après des études à Leipzig et Berlin, il s’installe à Paris et devient un auditeur régulier des séminaires de Mauss à partir de 1903. Il se rapproche d’Hubert durant l’année 1905 pour suivre ses séminaires sur les « Religions primitives de L’Europe ». On apprend, aussi, qu’il retourna à Varsovie en 1911 et qu’il participa à la Première Guerre mondiale dans les services statistiques et géographiques. Il enseigna ensuite à l’École de l’État major avant de fonder, avec d’autres, l’Institut français de sociologie.

Le travail précieux d’établissement de cette correspondance, les annotations savantes qui sont faites, montrent à quel point ces lettres ne sont pas des restes insignifiants de l’activité scientifique. Tout au contraire, elles en constituent l’élément le plus marquant en ce qu’elles nous permettent de suivre l’activité savante de Czarnowski en train de se faire, son savoir en train de se construire. C’est particulièrement le cas pour ce qui reste, sans doute, l’opus magnum de Czarnowski en sociologie des religions, à savoir « Le culte des héros et ses conditions sociales. Saint Patrick, héros national de l’Irlande »2, un long développement théorique précédé par une tout aussi longue introduction d’Henri Hubert3.

C’est à partir de 1905 que Czarnowski se propose de travailler sur les classes de lettrés en Irlande (les filé) pour comprendre la diffusion de la légende de saint Patrick. En 1909, il affine son travail et donne à Hubert un premier plan sommaire dans lequel il mentionne une analyse historique de la construction mémorielle de Patrick, et ce à partir d’une analyse des textes latins et celtiques, et d’une réflexion sociologique qui consisterait à faire du « héros » une catégorie utile pour aborder, entre autres, la question du sentiment national ou encore de la mise en scène d’une communauté. Un double questionnement qui fera d’ailleurs dire à Durkheim, en octobre 1912, que le titre originellement prévu pour le mémoire ne peut être maintenu en l’état, et à proposer quelque chose comme « Contribution à l’étude de la mythologie héroïque ou Recherche sur les conditions sociales d’un mythe héroïque ». Finalement, Durkheim se rangera du côté d’Hubert et acceptera le titre donné (« Recherches sur les conditions sociales du culte des Héros. Saint Patrick héros national de l’Irlande ») qui permet de mettre en avant un intérêt commun concernant les conditions nécessaires du culte.

Alors que le mémoire de Czarnowski semble terminé et même imprimé en 1912, l’ouvrage ne paraîtra finalement qu’en 1919. La mobilisation d’Hubert en 1915, à laquelle il faut ajouter de nouvelles obligations budgétaires imposées par l’éditeur Alcan, expliquent ce retard. Ce serait pourtant réduire de beaucoup les avancées de cet ouvrage.

Sous la plume des auteurs, les correspondances deviennent d’importants révélateurs des positionnements sociaux et professionnels des trois durkheimiens. Elles nous montrent l’existence de codes, devenus difficilement perceptibles, qui nous donnent à voir la structuration et la hiérarchisation de ce milieu savant dans lequel se croisent des éditeurs, comme Alcan, des collègues, ou des étudiants : « Les lettres de Czarnowski, elles, illustrent combien les circonstances peuvent peser sur une relation maître-disciple. Plus Czarnowski était loin de Paris et souffrait de son isolement intellectuel à Varsovie, plus il assurait Hubert et Mauss de son attachement » (p. 361).

Ces correspondances nous montrent surtout l’image d’une sociologie extrêmement vivante, « transdisciplinaire » pourrait-on dire aujourd’hui. Czarnowski passe de saint Patrick à un travail sur les Kwakiult, envisagé pour le séminaire de Mauss en 1910. Il aborde aussi la question du totém-isme. Il s’agit là d’une sociologie mouvementée, faite d’histoires, petites et grandes, de polémiques évidemment, de soutiens et de défections lors d’attribution de bourses ou de postes.

Du travail de recherche qui se reflète dans ces lettres, c’est surtout le quotidien du travail documentaire qui doit nous étonner. Le prix des livres, la difficulté de se les faire envoyer en Pologne, sont des problèmes logistiques importantes. Cette correspondance n’y échappe pas. Ce sont aussi les problèmes de santé ou de déménagement qui impactent fortement l’avancée de la réflexion. En 1911, à Varsovie, Czarnowski se dit obligé à d’interminables « conciliabules » avec les artisans, l’empêchant ainsi de travailler à son rythme. Ce sera enfin la Guerre mondiale. Une guerre que Czarnowski – comme Mauss d’ailleurs – va réinvestir dans plusieurs de ses questionnements comme celui des rapports entre le culte et le droit de possession du sol et de la religiosité paysanne4.

On pourra lire avec attention l’analyse proposée en postface (p. 377–384) qui revient sur la métamorphose du durkheimisme entre les deux guerres. De même, il faut prendre acte des explications données par les auteurs pour expliquer le silence qui régna autour de Czarnowski, en France comme en Pologne. Il s’agit d’une sociologie qui a été considérée très vite comme « bien trop éloignée des affaires pratiques », mais surtout d’une sociologie qui a été oubliée au profit d’une autre figure importante, à savoir Florian Znaniecki (1882–1958) (p. 399 et sv).

On aurait peut-être voulu des analyses plus fournies sur les ouvrages de Czarnowski, et plus particulièrement sur celui consacré aux « Héros », qui reste une œuvre incontournable pour qui s’intéresse à cette question aujourd’hui. Sur ce point, le linguiste et spécialiste des Celtes Joseph Vendryès, mais aussi Salomon Reinach ou encore Maurice Halbwachs ne s’y étaient pas trompés, indiquant tous les trois les avancées du livre quant à la manière habituelle de poser cette question des héros – en particulier par les historiens de l’Antiquité. Depuis, d’autres anthropologues comme P. Centlivres et F. Zonabend et Daniel Fabre, récemment disparu (2015), ont su actualiser la méthode d’analyse mise en avant par Czarnowski pour essayer de comprendre le contemporain, rappelant par exemple combien « le héros ne devient pas glorieux par le simple fait de sa mort puisque précisément il ne meurt pas, puisqu’il continue à agir, grâce à son corps, son image et son nom, en tant que vivant »5. Une phrase qui reste à méditer dans la configuration socio-politique actuelle dans laquelle le terrorisme a largement modifié la notion de héros.

Notes
1

On peut citer aussi, dernière publication en date qui prend la correspondance comme objet central, la revue Deshima, revue d’histoire globale des pays du nord, qui vient dans son dernier numéro (n.9 – 2015) de revenir sur les correspondances savantes, et en particulier sur celle entre Marcel Mauss et les hollandais : Thomas Beaufils, « Marcel Mauss, la Hollande et les hollandais. Correspondance de 1898 à 1927 », p. 47–87.

2

Ouvrage publié dans la collection des Travaux de L’Année sociologique (Paris, F. Alcan, 1919, p. i–xciv)

3

La préface d’Hubert sera publiée en deux parties dans la Revue de l’histoire des religions en 1914 et 1915 : « Le Culte des héros et ses conditions sociales », Revue de l’histoire des religions, t. LXX, 1914, p. 1–20 [1e partie] ; « Le Culte des héros et ses conditions sociales », Revue de l’histoire des religions, t. LXXI, 1915, p. 195–247 [2e partie].

4

Des travaux qui seront regroupés dans un volume intitulé Kultura religijna wiejskiego ludu polskiego (« La culture religieuse du paysan polonais »), tenz·e Dzieła, t. 1, Warszawa, 1965.

5

Voir La Fabrique des Héros, sous la dir. de P. Centlivres, D. Fabre et F. Zonabend, Paris, MSH, 1998, p. 4.

Cécile Rol (ed.), ‘Gaston Richard (1860–1945): Un sociologue en rébellion’, Lendemains, 40 (158/159), 2015, pp. 7–140

Review by Baudry Rocquin

There has not been a lot of work done on the ambivalent figure of Gaston Richard (1860–1945), except for two notable articles by W.S.F. Pickering (1975, 1979). Yet there is a lot of unused material on him and he is a figure of much interest for the Durkheimian galaxy.

Richard was a Normalien, a Protestant sociologist and initially a collaborator of Durkheim. However, he broke away from Durkheim in 1907, although, as Raymond Aron suggested in 1938, it could have been from the start (see n. 16, p. 11). In any case, he went so far as to take on the editorship, in 1926, of the competing Revue internationale de sociologie (initially founded in 1893 by René Worms, Durkheim’s ‘best enemy’). He died all but forgotten in 1945.

The publication, in 2015, of a whole (half-)issue of the Franco-German journal Lendemains on Richard, edited by Cécile Rol, is thus in itself a great event. She is a French lecturer in sociology working at the University of Halle in Germany, who has already published several informed, scholarly articles on Georges Gurvitch, Guillaume-Léonce Duprat and René Worms (see Rol 2008, 2011, 2016a, 2016b). Her works, always based on serious archival research, provide refreshing insights on some lesser-known French sociologists. There are thus big expectations for this new issue on Gaston Richard.

There has indeed been a renewal of interest in the ‘distant disciples’ of Durkheim. Work has recently appeared on Aron (1905–1983), who was a colleague of Bouglé at the Centre de Documentation Sociale in the 1930s, or René Maunier (1887–1951), a legal sociologist who taught in Egypt in the 1910s and trained many colonial administrators with his textbooks, sometimes described as ‘a disciple of Mauss’ (see, e.g., Baehr 2015; Mahé 1996; Singaravélou 2008). This issue of Lendemains is taking part in this movement.

Several questions arise when speaking about Richard. Why study him? How important was he in French and world sociology? How meaningful was his opposition to Durkheim? What did it mean to be a sociological ‘rebel’ at the time? None of these questions has been adequately tackled in the literature; has the new collection come up with an answer to them?

‘Introduction’, Cécile Rol (pp. 7–11)

The editor’s introduction sets the background to Richard’s life and career, and explains what is at stake in it. She describes him as ‘one of Durkheim’s most dedicated and talented collaborators’ (p. 7), who then seceded from Durkheim in 1905–1906, although the reasons behind this are obscure. She reminds us that the literature on Richard has been sparse, and brings out two very interesting dimensions to his life. The first involves how, as well as belonging to the Protestant minority in a largely Catholic country, he was marked by Social Christianism, which led to his work being boycotted, since he was ‘too religious’ for France’s increasingly lay universities. The second involves his handling of the situation.

Far from being a leader, Richard was a discreet man, who saw himself as ‘a worker rather than an architect’ (p. 8). Yet he was responsible for taking over from Durkheim at Bordeaux after the latter’s departure in 1902, and for bringing forward the development of sociology as the head, after 1926, of the Institut International de Sociologie. But he remained based in Bordeaux and never got a position at the Sorbonne, which no doubt helps to explain, for Rol, why he fell into oblivion. Indeed, if one follows her introduction, there are three words that probably best sum up Richard’s personality and life: provincial, Protestant, pariah.

‘Quand Gaston Richard se professait durkheimian (1892–1906)’, Massimo Borlandi (pp. 12–62)

There follows a scholarly piece by M. Borlandi on the formative period from 1892 to 1906, that is, from the beginning of Richard and Durkheim’s collaboration to their break-up. Borlandi looks for the various reasons explaining their eventual intellectual rupture and identifies six ‘criticisms’ from Richard. The article is admirable in that it is based on a careful examination of no fewer than sixty texts published by Richard in which he refers to Durkheim and Tarde, and also cites letters, included as an appendix, that he wrote to Tarde. Borlandi sets out to show from this evidence that ‘Richard in fact chose – indeed, from early on – to pit himself against the two enemy sociologists’ (p. 12). His argument may then be reconstructed along the lines that Richard could have been someone much more important, had he managed to define his position more carefully and more autonomously towards the two masters. The point of Borlandi’s article is to explain a subsequent divide between Durkheim and Richard, and here he interestingly demonstrates that ‘the harmony failed as soon as their collaboration started’ (p. 32).

‘Un sociologue protestant peu connu de ses coreligionnaires bordelais et de ses concitoyens’, Sévérine Pacteur de Luze (pp. 63–78)

The third paper claims to show that Richard remained until the end of his life a Protestant true to his faith, but, probably because of this, was not well known by his fellow citizens. The article is an interesting account of the lives of Bordeaux’s Protestants and of its university, before and after the Great War. But although a useful addition to Richard’s still blurry biography, it is of rather anecdotal relevance for understanding his importance in the field of social science. Indeed, the questions that spark curiosity are the mysterious links between his work and his faith. How did Protestantism impact on his thought? What was his relationship with ‘Protestant’ writers such as British psychologists, or with Bergson in France or with German romantics? Finally, what did it mean to see society as a Protestant and not, supposedly like Durkheim, following a traditional Catholic outlook of the French, as an absolutist power ‘controlling men’s minds and behaviours’?1

On the one hand, moreover, the paper is biased in implying that Richard was probably a ‘loser’ compared with Durkheim, as when the author states that Richard, in contrast with Durkheim, ‘did not attempt to join the Sorbonne, no doubt aware there was no place for him in Paris’ (p. 70). In any case, the article has its own awkward avowals of failure; for example, ‘we barely know’ Richard’s preferences for this or that pastor and their approach, or ‘we would love to know’ if he supported the Dreyfusard, Paul Stapfer (p. 73). Despite this, on the other hand, it remains a good piece of scholarship that makes the most of the very few sources on Richard and Protestantism in Bordeaux, but that could be improved by asking more general questions with regard to the fascinating topic of sociology and religion.

‘Une relation franco-allemande. Les emprunts “germaniques” de Gaston Richard à la bibliothèque universitaire de Bordeaux (1902–1945)’, Nicolas Sembel (pp. 79–112)

Sembel uses a very interesting device in the history of sociology: the records of Richard’s loans from the library of the University of Bordeaux, where he spent most of his long career. Following the discovery of Durkheim’s loans, tracked in a previous document (Sembel and Béra 2013), the article attempts to reconstruct Richard’s ‘intellectual map’ by examining specifically ‘Germanic’ work he borrowed at Bordeaux. Sembel puts forward a provocative thesis about these loans of Richard’s: they constitute ‘the darker Kantian, religious and Germanic side of Durkheim’ (p. 80). In this respect, Richard could be seen as viscerally emulating and at the same time rejecting Durkheim.

However, perhaps Sembel pushes the point too far and has a teleological understanding of Richard’s intellectual life. Richard was no doubt jealous of Durkheim and tried to emulate him somehow. But Sembel goes to great lengths to show that Richard was completely and constantly obsessed with Durkheim all his life, and that all his Germanic loans at Bordeaux should be construed as an opposition to him. Yet Richard had several interests in life as well as in sociology and probably cannot be summed up as easily. Sembel also betrays another biased interpretation of Richard as a ‘loser’, in remarking that he ‘ended up’ aligned with Worms (p. 84), as if this were something completely despicable.

On another front, there is little or no explanation of the article’s sources and the methodology, or discussion of what a ‘library loan’ means in the epistemological sense. A six-page table lists Richard’s 369 ‘Germanic’ loans from the university library between 1902 and 1945. In Sembel’s text itself, however, there is only a brief indication of the criteria he used to select ‘Germanic’ loans, while there is not even the simplest quantitative account of their percentage out of all Richard’s loans, or of how ‘Germanic friendly’ he was given the international range of his loans as a whole, or at different periods of his life, or in relation to his most borrowed authors, and so on.

Such gaps constitute a major shortcoming of the article as it stands. Moreover, a subsequent comparison with Durkheim’s own university library loans would be very welcome. But Sembel’s paper remains nicely structured, easy to read and one of the most promising works on Richard in the collection.

‘Dix-neuf lettres de Gaston Richard (1898–1939)’, Cécile Rol (pp. 113–40)

Rol has a talent for coming up with useful, interesting and lively accounts of the lives of sociologists. She often writes with panache, as in the sentence about the stay-at-home Richard’s ‘travels’, through his extensive inter-national correspondence, ‘to Italy, Spain, Romania, Turkey or the United States’ (p. 113). This helps to introduce a selection of Richard’s letters, some of which are anecdotal, such as the one about the Dreyfus Affair, but some are more telling, such as those written to Roger Bastide between 1924 and 1935. Bastide was then a young and promising French philosopher-turned-sociologist, who shared with Richard a taste for intellectual independence.2 Richard advised Bastide, whom he saw as his protégé, to live in the provinces, away from the ‘hustle’ (vertige) of Paris (p. 123). The older man’s campaign against Durkheimianism becomes apparent in his praise of the school of Le Play as ‘better at observation, despite its antiquated methodological formulae and outmoded views’. It is especially evident when he welcomes Bergson’s criticism of sociology in Les deux sources de la morale et de la religion, in which ‘Durkheimianism receives a deadly wound, and, what is even better, from the hand of a Jew’ (p. 128). There is also an interesting letter to Duprat in 1934. Commenting on von Wiese, president of the Institut International de Sociologie, and his departure from Germany to America after the Nazi seizure of power, Richard wrote: ‘So good for American students and so bad for the goofs [niquedouilles] of Germany!’ (p. 130).

Throughout his correspondence, of which so much remains to be published, Richard appears as a rather conservative character, for instance when praising the France ‘of the countryside and small towns!’ (p. 124), but also as a very active, internationally connected figure in Bordeaux. Finally, the most interesting aspect of his life is that he seems not only to have been ‘a rebel’, as indicated in the collection’s title, but also a sociological ‘unaligned’, a position in which, for example, he found many similarities with Bastide.

Conclusion: Living without a Sociological Allegiance in France

Going back to the opening questions, the collection does not come up with many answers, and Richard is unfortunately still somehow a conundrum in the history of sociology. This special issue of Lendemains is a good work of scholarship and offers a lot of promising new material and leads to follow. But a clearer, better informed biography of him has long been lacking. One can only look forward to a full-length book on Gaston Richard’s life and work, and indeed, since he was such a controversial character, with a seemingly strong personality, there is no doubt a good story to write here. The collection also incidentally raises a very exciting question: what did it mean to be a sociologist ‘without allegiance’ in France, especially in the interwar years? Like Richard, Aron, Maunier and probably many others did not define themselves with regard to a particular ‘creed’ or school of thought, and yet their work was remarkably original. Of course, Durkheimianism was largely dominant intellectually, but it is far from the case that its Weltanschauung imposed itself on every single sociologist in the field. There were other ways of ‘doing sociology’ at the time, and the big question remains: what were they? With all due respect to Durkheim, the collection indicates there is benefit to be found in going ‘beyond’ and ‘away’ from him. A renewal of French sociology’s past is necessary to provide a more comprehensive picture of what ‘being a sociologist’ meant before 1945, at precisely a time when ‘breaking away from Durkheimianism’ was ‘a change often described as the transition from “classical” sociology to “modern” sociology’.3

Notes
1

As rather provocatively stated on the back cover of Steven Lukes (1973).

2

See his distance towards Durkheimianism in a textbook (Bastide 1935).

3

This sentence is specifically used in the abstract by Johan Heilbron (1985); cf. Heilbron (2015).

References

  • Baehr, W.P. 2015. ‘British Sociology and Raymond Aron’, in E.R. Lybeck and A. Law (eds), Sociological Amnesia: Cross-Currents in Disciplinary History. London: Ashgate, pp. 1736.

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  • Bastide, R. 1935. Éléments de sociologie religieuse. Paris: Armand Colin.

  • Heilbron, J. 1985. ‘Les métamorphoses de Durkheimisme, 1920–1940’, Revue française de sociologie 26 (2): 20337.

  • Heilbron, J. 2015. ‘The Metamorphoses of Durkheimian Scholarship’, in J. Heilbron, French Sociology. Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, pp. 92123.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lukes, S. 1973. Émile Durkheim: His Life and Work. An Intellectual Biography. London: Allen Lane.

  • Mahé, A. 1996. ‘Un disciple méconnu de Marcel Mauss. René Maunier’, Revue européenne de sciences sociales 34 (105): 23764.

  • Pickering, W.S.F. 1975. ‘A Note on the Life of Gaston Richard and Certain Aspects of His Work’, in W.S.F. Pickering (ed.), Durkheim on Religion: A Selection of Readings with Bibliographies and Introductory Remarks. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, pp. 34359.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pickering, W.S.F. 1979. ‘Gaston Richard. Collaborateur et adversaire’, trans. M. Bozon, Revue française de sociologie 20 (1): 16382.

  • Rol, C. 2008. ‘Le “Moment” Strasbourg de Georges Gurvitch (1935–1948)’, Revue des sciences sociales: 11430.

  • Rol, C. 2011. ‘Guillaume-Léonce Duprat (1872–1956): L’Institut International de Sociologie et l’Allemagne dans l’entre-deux-guerres’, Lendemains 36 (141): 1842.

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    • Export Citation
  • Rol, C. 2016a. ‘La Sociéte de sociologie de Paris: Un continent méconnu (1895–1952)’, Les Études sociales 161–162: 11973.

  • Rol, C. 2016b. ‘René Worms: Jalons d’une reception allemande (1896–1933)’, Les Études sociales 161–162: 22150.

  • Sembel, N., and M. Béra. 2013. ‘Emprunts de Durkheim à la bibliothèque universitaire de Bordeaux / Durkheim’s Loans from Bordeaux University Library: 1889–1902’, Durkheimian Studies / Études Durkheimiennes 19: 4971.

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    • Export Citation
  • Singaravélou, P. 2008. ‘De la psychologie coloniale à la géographie psychologique: Itinéraire, entre science et literature, d’une discipline éphémère dans l’entre-deux-guerres’, L’Homme et la société 1: 11948.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

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Contributor Notes

Marine Dhermy-Mairal est chercheure à l’Université Grenoble Alpes ; ses recherches portent sur l’histoire transnationale des sciences sociales et sur les usages politiques et administratifs des sciences sociales. marine.dhermy@gmail.com

Marine Dhermy-Mairal is a researcher at the University of Grenoble (Alps); her main interests are the transnational history of the social sciences and the political and administrative uses of the social sciences. marine.dhermy@gmail.com

Jean-François Bert est maître d’enseignement et de recherche à l’Université de Lausanne, rattaché à l’Institut d’histoire et anthropologie des religions (IHAR). Jean-Francois.Bert@unil.ch

Baudry Rocquin is a researcher at the University of Strasbourg, specializing in the history of sociology, especially British sociology. www.britishsociology.com

Durkheimian Studies

Études Durkheimiennes

  • Baehr, W.P. 2015. ‘British Sociology and Raymond Aron’, in E.R. Lybeck and A. Law (eds), Sociological Amnesia: Cross-Currents in Disciplinary History. London: Ashgate, pp. 1736.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bastide, R. 1935. Éléments de sociologie religieuse. Paris: Armand Colin.

  • Heilbron, J. 1985. ‘Les métamorphoses de Durkheimisme, 1920–1940’, Revue française de sociologie 26 (2): 20337.

  • Heilbron, J. 2015. ‘The Metamorphoses of Durkheimian Scholarship’, in J. Heilbron, French Sociology. Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, pp. 92123.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lukes, S. 1973. Émile Durkheim: His Life and Work. An Intellectual Biography. London: Allen Lane.

  • Mahé, A. 1996. ‘Un disciple méconnu de Marcel Mauss. René Maunier’, Revue européenne de sciences sociales 34 (105): 23764.

  • Pickering, W.S.F. 1975. ‘A Note on the Life of Gaston Richard and Certain Aspects of His Work’, in W.S.F. Pickering (ed.), Durkheim on Religion: A Selection of Readings with Bibliographies and Introductory Remarks. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, pp. 34359.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Pickering, W.S.F. 1979. ‘Gaston Richard. Collaborateur et adversaire’, trans. M. Bozon, Revue française de sociologie 20 (1): 16382.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rol, C. 2008. ‘Le “Moment” Strasbourg de Georges Gurvitch (1935–1948)’, Revue des sciences sociales: 11430.

  • Rol, C. 2011. ‘Guillaume-Léonce Duprat (1872–1956): L’Institut International de Sociologie et l’Allemagne dans l’entre-deux-guerres’, Lendemains 36 (141): 1842.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rol, C. 2016a. ‘La Sociéte de sociologie de Paris: Un continent méconnu (1895–1952)’, Les Études sociales 161–162: 11973.

  • Rol, C. 2016b. ‘René Worms: Jalons d’une reception allemande (1896–1933)’, Les Études sociales 161–162: 22150.

  • Sembel, N., and M. Béra. 2013. ‘Emprunts de Durkheim à la bibliothèque universitaire de Bordeaux / Durkheim’s Loans from Bordeaux University Library: 1889–1902’, Durkheimian Studies / Études Durkheimiennes 19: 4971.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Singaravélou, P. 2008. ‘De la psychologie coloniale à la géographie psychologique: Itinéraire, entre science et literature, d’une discipline éphémère dans l’entre-deux-guerres’, L’Homme et la société 1: 11948.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

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