Tradition, Morality and Solidarity in Durkheim’s TheoryAlexander Gofman
This article examines Durkheim’s approach to the interrelationship of tradition, morality and solidarity. One of its basic claims is that Durkheim was an epistemological and methodological rationalist, but not an ontological one. It means that he grounded rational and scientific knowledge about social reality, which itself, to his mind, is not rational. It concerns directly his treatment of tradition, morality and social solidarity. In spite of all Durkheim’s statements about the decline of traditionalism in contemporary societies, he affirmed sometimes that traditional behaviour in general is almost identical to a moral one. We can see it namely in his reasoning about the close affinity and nearly identical character between “collective habits” and true morality. In industrial societies, according to him, two types of traditions coexist, namely old, “traditional” traditions inherited from the past on the one hand, and new, “rational” traditions, on the other hand. His statements about the alternation of historical periods dominated by traditions and ideals contains a kind of sketch on the philosophy of history, partly explaining the phenomena of time compression and time distension in different periods of social development. Durkheimian theory may be interpreted as a fruitful contribution to the present-day understanding of the processes of modernization.