Emile Durkheim

Durkheim, Émile

Émile Durkheim (dûrk´hīm, Fr. āmēl´ dürkĕm´), 1858–1917, French sociologist. Along with Max Weber he is considered one of the chief founders of modern sociology. Educated in France and Germany, Durkheim taught social science at the Univ. of Bordeaux and the Sorbonne. His view that the methods of natural science can be applied to the study of society was influenced by the positivist philosophy of Auguste Comte. Durkheim held that the collective mind of society was the source of religion and morality and that the common values developed in society, particularly in primitive societies, are the cohesive bonds of social order. In more complex societies, he suggests, the division of labor makes for cohesiveness, but the loss of commonly held values leads to social instability and disorientation of the individual. Durkheim studied suicide to show the importance of anomie, the loss of morale that accompanies decline in social identity. To support his theories he drew extensively on anthropological and statistical materials. His important works include The Division of Labor in Society (1893, tr. 1933), The Rules of Sociological Method (1895, tr. 1938), Le Suicide (1897), and The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912, tr. 1915).

See biographies by S. Lukes (1985) and M. Fournier (2012); studies by S. Lukes (1972), R. A. Nisbet (1965 and 1974), N. Smelser (1963), and D. La Capra (1985).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Emile Durkheim: Selected full-text books and articles

Emile Durkheim By Ken Thompson Routledge, 2002 (Revised edition)
Suicide: A Study in Sociology By Émile Durkheim; John A. Spaulding; George Simpson Routledge Classics, 2002
The Division of Labor in Society By Emile Durkheim; George Simpson Free Press, 1947
The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life By Emile Durkheim; Joseph Ward Swain Free Press, 1965
The Development of Durkheim's Social Realism By Robert Alun Jones Cambridge University Press, 1999
The Classical Roots of Ethnomethodology: Durkheim, Weber, and Garfinkel By Richard A. Hilbert University of North Carolina Press, 1992
Sacred Revolutions: Durkheim and the Collège de Sociologie By Michèle H. Richman University of Minnesota Press, 2002
Eight Theories of Religion By Daniel L. Pals Oxford University Press, 2006 (2nd edition)
Librarian's tip: Chap. 3 "Society as Sacred: Emile Durkheim"
Durkheim Today By W. S. F. Pickering Berghahn Books, 2002
Teaching Durkheim By Terry F. Godlove Jr Oxford University Press, 2005
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