E. Durkheim’s concept of sacredness


E. Durkheim’s concept of sacredness as formulated in The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life aims at explaining why and how an aggregate of people becomes ‘a single whole’ and reproduces itself. This concept is the logical foundation of Durkheim’s ‘sociological holism’ for it focuses, according to T. Parsons, on ‘the core of the social system’. The principles of this concept are opposite to the principles of ‘methodological nominalism and individualism’ of the British social anthropology as expressed in the theory of animism. Durkheim defines the sacred as an ‘impersonal force’, impersonal ‘collective being’, ‘collective soul’ created and reproduced on the religious cults. The individual principle is reduced by Durkheim to the animal and wild which can be understood only as a part of the ‘collective being’ in primitive societies. In defining the nature of religious rituals, Durkheim relied on the concept of ritual by W. Robertson-Smith, which defines the main meaning of cults as the ‘union’ of adepts with the deity and each other. By removing the deity as a transcendental principle, Durkheim reduced the meaning of religious rituals to the reproduction of social unity, solidarity. Durkheim’s theory of sacredness, like its opposite - the theory of animism, is based on the concepts of the philosophy of the Modern Time, which determined the anthropomorphization of consciousness and confusion of terms ‘person’ and ‘individuality’. The significance of Durkheim’s concept should not be identified in the positivist perspective - as an explanation of facts unexplained by alternative theories. In such an interpretation, this concept was criticized and rejected by most scholars. However, it is important as a part of ‘social engineering’ which changed the intellectual environment, including the scientific community, in a specific, ideologically leftist direction.

About the authors

A. E. Kapishin

RUDN University

Author for correspondence.
Email: poliarnik@yandex.ru

кандидат философских наук, доцент кафедры социологии

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


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