Durkheim and the Jews of France by Ivan Strenski

By Ivan Strenski

Ivan Strenski debunks the typical proposal that there's something "essentially" Jewish in Durkheim's paintings. looking the Durkheim contained in the genuine global of Jews in France instead of the imagined Jewishness inside of Durkheim himself, Strenski adopts a Durkheimian method of figuring out Durkheim's concept. In so doing he indicates for the 1st time that Durkheim's sociology (especially his sociology of faith) took shape in terms of the Jewish highbrow lifetime of overdue 19th- and early twentieth-century France.

Strenski starts each one bankruptcy through weighing specific claims (some anti-Semitic, a few now not) for the Jewishness of Durkheim's paintings. In each one case Strenski overturns the declare whereas exhibiting that it may still open up a fruitful inquiry into the relation of Durkheim to French Jewry. for instance, Strenski indicates that Durkheim's get together of formality had no innately Jewish resource yet derived crucially from paintings on Hinduism by way of the Jewish Indologist Sylvain Lévi, whose effect on Durkheim and his fans hasn't ever earlier than been acknowledged.

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63 In this light, the societism of the socialists, the solidarists, and the Durkheimians should be seen as exceptions proving the rule of a national individualism. 64 TWO Equally important in the makeup of the French individualism has been the spell cast by the Revolution’s assertion of lib&&, spectacularly evident in the anarchist explosions of Durkheim’s day. ~~ I am arguing that the special circumstances of the nationalist revival of Durkheim’s time, however, dictated that French individualism would be treated to a withering critique from within.

In his lectures on Armand de Quatrefages’s Uniuersality of Mmal and Religious Sentiments, for example, Hamelin shows sophistication about the societal relativity and diversity of moral systems, ranging from the American Indians, fetishism, and Hottentots to the Buddhists. 44 Like Durkheim as well, Hamelin featured the social and collective nature of morality. In Hamelin’s view, Charles Renouvier was on firm ground to attempt to bring moral philosophy into relation with concrete social realities.

Intellectuals should have been setting examples of loyalty for the nation. Instead, they were guilty of sowing seeds of skepticism and disaffection with key national institutions such as the army. Ironically, to right-wingers, Durkheim’s defense of Alfred Dreyfus was the very epitome of “individualism,” as is well-known from his public quarrels with the Catholic integralist philosopher Ferdinand Brunetikre. And in some sense, Durkheim’s statement is indeed a powerful brief in behalf of individualism, even if it is one of a highly polemical and subtle sort.

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