Four Sociological Traditions

By Randall Collins | Go to book overview

3: The Durkheimian Tradition

Sociology must not be a simple illustration of ready-made and deceptive truisms; it must fashion discoveries which cannot fail to upset accepted notions.

Emile Durkheim, 1909

We come now to the core tradition of sociology. I am labeling it after the name of Émile Durkheim, its most famous representative. It is sociology's most original and unusual set of ideas. The conflict tradition, too, has its novel impact. It begins in the revolutionary underground; it tears away the veil of ideologies. The world revealed is dramatic, conflictual, capable of erupting. Nevertheless the truth of this world is rather cold and bleak. The hidden realities turn out to be economics, resource mobilization, and the struggles of political organization. Not your everyday world of common belief, to be sure, but even more harshly mundane.

What we come to now, though, is a tradition of genuine excitement. Here, too, there is a surface and an underlying reality beneath. But this time the surface is symbol and ritual, the depths are nonrational and subconscious. This intellectual tradition focuses on themes of emotional forces, morality, the sacred, the religious -- and declares that these are the essence of everything social. The Durkheimians take us into the jungle; only the jungle is ourselves, and we never escape from it. The tom-toms are beating, the vines entangling around us, emotional tides are sweeping us along -- and this is no more than the magic show we call life.

-181-

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Four Sociological Traditions
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents ix
  • Prologue- the Rise of the Social Sciences 3
  • 1- The Conflict Tradition 47
  • Notes 118
  • 2- The Rational/Utilitarian Tradition 121
  • Notes 179
  • 3- The Durkheimian Tradition 181
  • Notes 236
  • 4- The Microinteractionist Tradition 242
  • Notes 289
  • Epilogue 291
  • Bibliography 297
  • Index 311
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