Main Currents in Sociological Thought: Durkheim, Pareto, Weber - Vol. 2

By Raymond Aron; Richard Howard et al. | Go to book overview
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IV
Les Formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse (2)

HAVING EXPOUNDED the central theme of this book, I do not now intend to expound in detail the analysis of totemism to be found in Durkheim's book. I should merely like to indicate some of the leading ideas and methods of reasoning, ideas and methods which are part of Durkheim's general sociology.

First, I shall review an idea which is of extreme importance in Durkheim's thought, the idea that totemism is the simplest religion. To say that totemism is the simplest religion implies an evolutionist conception of religious history. In the context of a nonevolutionist viewpoint, totemism would be one religion among others, one simple religion among others. If Durkheim asserts that it is the simplest, most elementary religion, he is implicitly acknowledging that religion has an evolution from a single origin.

Also, in order to comprehend the essence of religion from the particular and privileged case of totemism, one must subscribe to a method whereby a well-chosen sample reveals the essence of a phenomenon that is found throughout all societies. The theory of religion is not elaborated on the basis of study of a large number of religious phenomena. The essence of the religious phenomenon is apprehended from

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