From Holism to Participation: Three Phases in Durkheim’s WorkBjørn Schiermer
The present paper seeks to read out important displacements regarding the understanding of the relation between the social and the individual in the course of Durkheim’s oeuvre. First, I center on Durkheim’s methodological program. I investigate how his insistence on the distinction between the individual and the social goes hand-in-hand with a repressive concept of the social centered on the concept of norms. I then, second, seek to contour an intermediary phase in Durkheim’s work in which the coercive depiction of the social is complemented with a positive one; this phase then contains his ideas of “integration” and of a (positive) form of “attachment” to society. Third, I demonstrate how Durkheim in his late chief work, by opening up for forms of active collective participation, offers a corrective to the early holism and the idea of an overarching and decollectivized society. Fourth, to situate my interpretation of late Durkheim in a contemporary theoretical landscape, I compare my ideas to the approaches to late Durkheim found in, respectively, Randall Collins’ work on Interaction Ritual Chains and in Jeffrey Alexander and collaborators’ so-called Strong Program.