Philosophical foundations of E. Durkheim’s sociological theory


The article considers the philosophical basis of Durkheim’s sociological theory, which consists of such ‘metaphysical’ concepts as ‘society’, ‘solidarity’, ‘sacredness’ and ‘human nature’. The author also focuses on the philosophical theories based on these concepts, which became the foundations of Durkheim’s sociological theory. There are ontological and epistemological philosophical foundations, on the one hand, and social-philosophical foundations secondary to them - on the other hand. The article raises the question about the connection between Durkheim’s theory and the philosophical systems of Spinoza, Kant and Renouvier. This, Spinoza’s ontological pantheism influenced the concept of ‘sacred’ in Durkheim’s theory. On the contrary, there is no reason to consider the influence of Kant’s philosophy on Durkheim’s ideas decisive. Although sometimes Renouvier is called a neo-Kantian, he developed his own philosophical system, the elements of which were used by Durkheim, especially for the concept of ‘social representations’. The author argues that sociological realism and holism of Durkheim oppose the sociological nominalism common for the British social philosophy and sociology, and believes in the conceptual continuity of Durkheim’s system with the theories of Montesquieu and especially Rousseau (the idea of society as a deified collective being). In the systems of Montesquieu and Rousseau, human nature is understood not as exclusively individualistic and selfish; therefore, in society, the main role is played not by competition, but by cooperation and integration. The article also considers French socialism of the 19th century, especially ‘Simonism’ as a direct ideological predecessor of Durkheim’s sociology. The author argues that Soviet works created a distorted, simplified and ‘demystified’ image of the French socialists of the 19th century (for example, of Leroux’s concept of ‘solidarism’ later developed by Durkheim). Although the founder of the French sociological school distanced himself from the ‘mysticism’ of the socialists of that time, he is undoubtedly their ideological successor.

About the authors

A. E. Kapishin

RUDN University

Author for correspondence.

кандидат философских наук, доцент кафедры социологии

Miklukho-Maklaya St., 6, Moscow, 117198, Russia


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