Durkheim Essay Questions

Durkheim Essay Questions-58
Most recently Self seems to have replaced, or if not replaced, subordinated, God and Nation as the predominant idea of our culture.

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So I would suggest that Durkheim is a marginal case, on the borderline between what Taylor calls neo- and post-Durkheimianism. Durkheim never imagined that his religion of the individual would be post-Durkheimian in the sense that it would be an ideology for individuals without any larger social membership.

For him the religion of the individual or the religion of humanity really did involve membership in humanity as such—France might be an exemplar, but it could never be the only expression of this genuinely universal faith.

Of course, Taylor argues that post-Durkheimian forms never wholly replace earlier ones, which continue to exist, sometimes with significant influence, as is the case of neo-Durkheimianism in the United States, though most of Europe is post-Durkheimian.

I would like to compare Taylor’s typology to one of Andrew Delbanco’s that I commented on in the Epilogue to my Festschrift in 2002.

In his famous essay, “Individualism and the Intellectuals,” published at the height of the Dreyfus controversy, Durkheim speaks of the human person () as “sacred in the ritual sense of the word. It is a religion in which man is at once the worshipper and the god.” Durkheim goes on to say that “this religion is individualistic, since it takes man as its object and since man is an individual by definition. Is there not herein what is needed to place all men of good will in communion?

It partakes of the transcendent majesty that churches of all times lend to their gods. ” Now Taylor’s definition of post-Durkheimianism sees it as a kind of expressive individualism in which “there is no necessary embedding of our link to the sacred in any particular broader framework, whether ‘church’ or state.” Whether that is entirely the case I will want to question momentarily, but first we have to realize that for Durkheim, the religion of the individual or the religion of humanity was in an important, though ambiguous, sense, the religion of France.

A social form is one in which religion is partially disembedded from the traditional social structure of kinship and village life but comes to serve as an expression of a larger social identity, namely the newly emerging nation state in the West.

The post-Westphalian regime of established churches—one realm, one church—is an example.

That is to say that Durkheim’s form of what Taylor calls neo-Durkheimianism, that is a fusion of faith and nation, is almost devoid of any particularism.

Now the French are notoriously famous for thinking that their form of universalism is universalism itself and Durkheim himself engaged to some degree in French chauvinism when he wrote an anti-German pamphlet during World War I in which he compared the universal ideals of France, which stood for civilization itself, with the narrow particularism of German nationalism, elevating the German nation above all others.


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