Maurice Halbwachs on Collective Memory. by Lewis A.

Coser
Review by: Suzanne Vromen
American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 99, No. 2 (Sep., 1993), pp. 510-512
Published by: The University of Chicago Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2781705 .
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Edited.American Journal of Sociology quate to our sense of ourselves as not simply singular but unique. and The Legendary Topographyof the Gospels in the Holy Land. Inspired by him. Suzanne Vromen Bard College To Maurice Halbwachs (1877-1945). grasp the individual as the accidental." The translator's clear. on the one hand and literature. While it can be argued that this fails to capture that moment of individuality and subjectivity found when subjects encounter themselves in "isolation and freedom." it must still be granted that Habermas's discussion illuminates many of the important connections between individuation and socialization. published in 1941. $41. The Social Frameworksof Memory. Halbwachs followed Georg Sim510 . Mead and to the attempt to "level" the distinction between philosophy and science. and they are invariably insightful both in themselves and because they reflect and embody an understanding of "the whole of things. a French sociologist and collaborator with Durkheim. translated. Metaphysics fails to solve the problem because it deals with individuality in general terms and can. Maurice Halbwachs on Collective Memory. After World War I. intersubjectivity. originally published in 1925. we owe the earliest sociological study of memory. S. Pp. 1992. insightful introductory essay adds to the value of the volume. on the other. the philosopher Henri Bergson. Coser. Lewis Coser has now translated sections from two of these works. 152) but a linguistically mediated affair in which the phenomena of individuality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. and with an introduction by Lewis A. More generally. became part of the Durkheimian group and contributed regularly to the Anne'esociologique. H. 244. and the philosophy of consciousness fails because it makes the mistake of thinking that subjectivity will be uncovered by introspection instead of realizing with Humboldt and Mead that individuation is not "the self-realization of an independently acting subject carried out in isolation and freedom" (p. Peirce and G. Between 1925 and 1944 he wrote three major works on this topic. and life-historical identity emerge as human beings interact with one another. with an introduction by Mary Douglas. Soon. Halbwachs's interest in memory is undoubtedly due to the influence of his teacher. at best. are vintage Habermas. however. he was attracted to the social sciences.00. Halbwachs studied philosophy at the Ecole Normale and first pursued a career as a philosopher. They are grounded in a thorough mastery of the material discussed. Halbwachs's last work on memory appeared posthumously in 1950 and was translated in 1980 as The Collective Memory (New York: Harper and Row). the essays in this volume devoted to the thought of C. irreplaceable beings.

whereby the past considered only as a reflection of present concerns and becomes a string of discontinuous snapshots (pp. is completely translated. The criticism. Coser uses contemporary scholarship to place Halbwachs in context and to present a comprehensive and lucid sketch of his life and works. religious groups. which treats the collective memories of groups. The book contains selections from two different texts. Memory also orders the experience and ensures the continuity of collectivities. about the reasons that might have led Halbwachs to opt for Durkheim and sociology. and he provides a valuable discussion of Halbwachs's legacy. as a kind of "staged authenticity. recognized. to remember is to understand a relation. The memorable events in the lives of groups to which the individual belongs serve as a coherent system of reference points for recall.g. To remember means to be tied to collective frameworks of social reference points that allow memories to be coordinated in time and space. The first half of the original work on the social frameworks of memory is reduced in the translation to 25 pages. Halbwachs's views on memory stand in sharp opposition to Henri Bergson's intuitive stance. Coser. Some minor biographical points need rectification. 7). By surveying sacred sites in the Holy Land in detail. these localizations serve as means of legitimation. Halbwachs made the relationship between memory and society his central program. To remember.. moving in 1935 to the Sorbonne and in 1944 to the prestigious College de France. Therefore. Halbwachs treated religious collective memory empirically in The Legendary Topographyof the Gospels in the Holy Land. For example the version of Halbwachs's arrest in 1944 is incorrect (p. is the continuity of Halbwachs's confrontational dialogue with Bergson and the discussion of the localization of memories. Coser also offers creative speculations. and located socially. Not only are memories acquired through society. one needs others. however. he contended. From the second text only the conclusion is included. For Halbwachs. What we miss therefore. 25-26).Book Reviews mel in the chair of pedagogy and sociology at the University of Strasbourg (French again). they are recalled. and the nobility. Rooted not only in traditions but also in images and ideas derived from the present and in a concrete experiential reality. consciousness of duration is a social fact. these collective memories are not pure recollections but reconstructions. Always a talented synthesizer. among other things. as didactic modes. 511 . as they are embedded in first names). the second half. In The Social Frameworks of Memory he argued against considering memory an exclusively individual faculty. compensates for the fragmentation by the excellence of his introduction. " Coser's introduction is a signal contribution to our knowledge of Halbwachs. for example. Coser objects to what he calls Halbwach's presentist approach. Halbwachs detailed the collective memories of families (e. he showed that the locations of major events linked to the origins of Christianity change according to significant doctrinal and political developments.

Veblen was as pessimistic as any Burkean conservative about the difficulties of coherent social change and as committed as any classical liberal to the simple virtue of "live and let live. 1992. his effort is our gain. and its arguments assume a good working knowledge of Veblen's many books and essays." Coser has grappled valiantly with a language often awkward and confusing. 1917). as well as radical thought. By Rick Tilman. However. An authentic American radical. Its range and reading of sources. Halbwachs was clearly aware of historical continuity and of the particular mix of past traditions and present concerns that shape collective memory (pp. words are missing and the page numbers that supposedly identify the translated fragments in the original version have no connection with reality. not much. Veblen's ideas encompass significant strands of conservative and liberal. and change. A critical reading of Halbwachs's finest works raises questions about representations. N. and Radical Perspectives. one in which vestiges of the past had been obliterated. continuity. legitimation. those thirsting for a new interpretation of Veblen will have to be patient. Marc Bloch. and dominate the state. Tilman's study provides neither a summary nor a new synthesis of Veblen's ideas. for example. 356.American Journal of Sociology I think. He was fascinated by the topography of the Holy Land precisely because it was such an extraordinary case. alone will make this book indispensable to Veblen scholars. In this first of a proposed three-volume analysis of Veblen's rela512 . Pp. to be sure. a little known review by George Herbert Meade of The Nature of Peace (New York: Macmillan.50. Sidney Plotkin Vassar College No writer is prone to causing more dismay among the taxonomists of social theory than Thorstein Veblen. yet he set Halbwachs's future agenda by asking him to give more attention to distortions and "false memories.: Princeton University Press. Thorstein Veblen and His Critics. 188). Unfortunately he has not been helped by expert proofreading. Thoroughly opposed to modern business enterprise for its power to sabotage production. Typos abound. distort consumer preference. Tilman has uncovered some real gems. authenticity and identity.J. the historian and a Strasbourg colleague." Rick Tilman's study is a valuable effort to answer the question. Liberal. It is timely that we finally have access to it. $39. had no problem in his review of Les Cadres Sociaux de la Memoire in discerning this fusion of past and present. What has American social science made of this most recalcitrant of minds? The short answer is. is not justified. 120-21. Princeton. 1891-1963: Conservative.