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The Question of Hegelian Influence upon Durkheim s

Socio lo^
Peter K n a p p , Villanova University

Durkheim is commonly viewed as the founder of sociology as a n empirical or even


a positivist, empiricist discipline. T he connection between empirical sociological
thenry and Marxist, Weberian, symbolic interactionist, phenomenological, hermeneutic, and other tendencies is illuminated by viewing the parallels between Durkheim a n d Hegel. These parallels should not obscure important contrasts, but they
include a large number of the most distinctive doctrines of the two theorists. T h e
comparison illuminates relationships within sociology as well as relationships between sociology and such other disciplines as philosophy, history, literary criticism,
jurisprudence, theology, o r ethics. T he importance within Durkheims milieu of
figures who were deeply influenced by Hegel shows that Hegels influence o n Durkheim should not be obscured by current views of Durkheim as a positivist in the tradition of Comte.

In sociology today, the towering theoretical figures are Durkheim, Weber,


and Marx. The space and kind of treatment introductory texts give the founders of a discipline are roughly accurate, if delayed, measures of their perceived roles and importance. Although different texts give them different
amounts of space, in eleven popular texts Durkheim, Weber, and Marx command medians of fourteen, thirteen, and twelve pages, respectively (DeFleur,
Hess, Hobbs, Lenski, Light, Robertson, Rose, Shepard, Stewart, Turner,
Westhues). The runner-up of one text is often not mentioned at all in another
and, in any case, commands less space (median, eleven pages) than the three
preeminent theorists.
The kind of treatment a theorist is accorded is at least as important as its
extent. A median of 46 percent of the pages devoted to Marx criticize or
qualify his position, proposing it as one of several alternate views. Only 14
percent of the pages devoted to Weber and only 10 percent of the pages discussing Durkheim criticize alleged errors or qualify their position in this way.
Textbooks portray Durkheim as a principal founder of sociology as an empirical, cumulative, scientific discipline. Their overwhelmingly positive picture
is the more interesting for having come relatively late. Durkheim was advisory editor to the American Journal of Sociology from 1895 until World War I
(Lukes, 1973:397). But throughout the first four decades of the twentieth
century, American sociologists saw him as an apostle of the unsound, meta

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physical theory of a group mind (Parsons, 1968:ix). Until the 1940s, U.S.
reviews and comments on his work were strongly hostile and disparaging
(Hinkle, 1960). Only with a wave of popularization during the 1940s did
Durkheim receive his present image (Alpert, 1939; Parsons, 1968; Merton,
1934).
While Durkheim is now a preeminent theoretical figure for American
sociology, his portrait in secondary sources is narrow and distorted. Durkheims popularizers in the 1930s and 1940s minimized or ignored political,
religious, methodological, and philosophical elements of his thought that were
unpopular in the United States and that conflicted with the individualism and
voluntaristic nominalism dominant in the United States (HinMe, 1960). Such
elements included his syndicalist quasi-socialism (Lukes, 1973:322-329), the
more controversial aspects of his analysis of religion, and his claim to have
founded a science of morals (Wallwork, 1972). Overall, the popularizers produced an ahistorical, positivist, Comtian theorist practicing synchronic analysis
of social integration (Bellah, 1959).
Selective attention to elements of Durkheims thought was buttressed by
a highly selective picture of the sources and origins of his thought. This picture broke Durkheims connections with neo-Hegelian, neo-Kantian, socialist, and historicist currents in his own milieu. The new Durkheim is thus discontinuous with Weberian Verstehen and Marxist praxis as well as with such
other trends within contemporary sociology as symbolic interactionism,
phenomenology, structuralism, conflict theory, and historical sociology.
There have been important theoretical attempts to reconnect Durkheimian
analysis to each of these five movements (for example, Falding, 1982: 725-733;
Coenen, 1981; Glucksmann, 1974; Therborn, 1976; Bellah, 1959). But these
attempts have been frustrated by the dominant, relatively one-dimensional
conception of Durkheim and his relation to his predecessors.
The present paper discusses parallels and breaks between Hegel and
Durkheim. The comparison can help to reestablish continuity between Durkheimian sociology and other approaches currently contrasted to it: first,
Weber and Marx; second, other approaches in contemporary sociology; finally, work in neighboring disciplines. Since Hegel is often misunderstood, part
one not only shows key parallels with Durkheim but also reviews aspects of
Hegels thought. The interest of the parallels does not depend on establishing
the direct influence of Hegel on Durkheim. Nevertheless, the figures and
movements that intervened between Hegel and Durkheim show that such
influence cannot be ruled out.
Hegels system was encyclopedic in scope, entailing enormous internal
tensions. He synthesized a great many contrary lines of argument (contradictions) into what he termed absolute knowledge. Those who rejected

HEGELIAN INFLUENCE UPON DURKHEIM 3

the final synthesis could and did use these lines of argument to fuel opposed
positions. For example, it is well known that Hegels immanent conception of
spirit allows both theistic (Fackenheim, 1967; Crites, 1972) and atheistic interpretations (Kojeve, 1969; Lukacs, 1978). Not long after Hegels death,
followers split over using his system to attack or defend organized religion
(Toews, 1980). Similarly, people drew on Hegel to defend opposed political
standpoints, from chauvinist celebration of the nation-state through liberal
limitations on the state (for example, T. H. Green) to socialist calls for its
abolition. Finally, people could and did use Hegelian arguments to defend
opposed positions about law, ethics, science, the intelligibility of history, the
interpretation of meaning, and many other issues. Not only Hegels notorious
style, but also the fact that internal tensions allowed opposing interpretations
make Hegel nearly as controversial now as a century ago (Kaufmann, 1966;
Lukks, 1978; Taylor, 1975).
The scope and internal tensions that make it hard to delineate Hegels influence with precision also. made his indirect influence far more extensive and
important than his direct influence. If we measure Hegels impact simply by
how many people are styled Hegelians, it hardly extended to the twentieth
century. When Hegel died in Germany, perhaps a half-dozen philosophers
edited and explicated his works. At the end of the century, Diltheys writings
signaled something of a revival, merging with neo-Kantian strands of thought
and providing the main background to Weber. Outside Germany, several
dozen major theorists, mostly philosophers, produced four main Hegelian and
neo-Hegelian movements at staggered intervals in Eastern Europe, the United
States, Italy, and Britain. They created few Hegelians except in philosophy,
but Hegel was much more influential than is evident from any listing of
Hegelian philosophers. Even in philosophy his influence came in the form
of rebellions against him. Five groups of authors to whom Durkheim was
deeply indebted owed the great part of their common ideas to Hegelian influence: ( 1) neo-Kantian ethical philosophers such as Boutroux, Renouvier,
and Hamelin; (2) idealist-positivist literary figures in debate with religion such
as Cousin, Renan, Taine, and Smith; (3) socialists and especially the socialists of the chair such as Schmoller, Wagner, and Schaffle; (4) the folkpsychologist Wundt and his followers; and ( 5 ) the historicist current of German scholarship associated with Dilthey, Windelband, Rickert, Tonnies, and
others. The Durkheimian theoretical synthesis depended importantly on the
common stock of ideas that he found among these figures. They are key to his
relation to Marx, Weber, and other contemporary tendencies. The first section of this essay will outline ten social doctrines that Durkheim shared with
Hegel; these are schematized in Figure 1. However, an equally important
way in which Hegel served as the common starting point of twentieth-century

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theorists stems from the fact that key elements of sociology derived from negations or refutations of one or another element of Hegels system. Thus, part
two of this essay notes ten ruptures separating Hegel and Durkheim.

Hegel and Parallels wth Durkheim


As new disciplines emerged in humanities and social science, their proponents felt stifled by Hegels systematics. The goal of Hegels system was to
represent human knowledge as a unified whole, each part related to each
other. But each part of his system became enmeshed in heated religious, political, and methodological controversies. The scope of the system and the controversies extended Hegelian ideas into the new disciplines. Although the
ideas did not dominate any of these fields, they often coalesced with powerful
critiques to establish major, persisting problem areas in many fields. From
distant disciplines like religion, art, history, ethics, and political theory,
Hegelian constructs reverberated upon sociology a generation later. Durkheims generation was preoccupied with the creation of sociology as a specialized discipline (Bendix, 197l), but its central territory was the crossroads
of numerous lines of intellectual influence, each importantly shaped by Hegel
in the previous generation.
One of these lines of influence is Hegels concept of Geist. Geist is a relative of such distinctive Durkheimian concepts as social integration, the collective conscience, collective representations, society as a sui generis reality,
homo duplex, the constraint exercised by social facts, and the transition from
mechanical to organic solidarity. The very different language in which Hegel
and Durkheim state their social theories often masks the similarity of what
they say. Whatever the correct philosophical interpretation of Ceist, it has very
often a straightforward sociological meaning. For the social sciences, Geist is
usually most usefully conceived as culture, especially political culture (Shklar,
1976:42ff.; Plamanatz, 1963:150-204).
Hegel saw Geist as prior to and constitutive of individuals. First, the concept formulates the insight that objective, supraindividual processes shape and
constrain human thought and action. Durkheim made the concept of objective, supraindividual processes the center of sociology as a discipline, and he
always acknowledged the crucial importance of studies by historians, folkpsychologists, and the socialists of the chair in establishing this insight
(for example, 1887:37-42, 113-125; 1889; 1897a; 1897b; compare Giddens,
1970).
Second, Hegel used the concept of Geist to formulate and popularize existing forms of social analysis. The language of Geist provided a terminology
for the unity of culture and social structure, especially language, law, custom, morality, kinship, politics, religion, and science. The postulate or issue

HEGELIAN INFLUENCE UPON DURKHEIM 5

Figure 1
Commonalities and Breaks between Durkheim and Hegel.
I. Ideas that Durkheim shared with Hegel
1. Objective, supraindividual processes shape and constrain human
thought and action.
2 . They include language, law, custom, morality, kinship, politics, religion, and science.
3. They form an integrated, historically developing system.
4. They form a functional system; nothing exists without reason.
5 . Humans only become human by participation in these processes.
6. Religion expresses the moral reality of the society.
7. The basis of the historical development in the West is freedom.
8. Men are free only insofar as they have mastered themselves through
law.
9. The fundamental contemporary political need is for authoritative
intermediary bodies.
10. The modern world is morally split and fragmented.
11. Ideas by which Durkheim distanced himseqfrom Hegel
1. Sociology needs to be a specialized academic discipline.

2 . One of its central focuses must be use of specialized statistical and


ethnographic data.
3. Different social arenas will require specific explanatory principles.
4. Social development follows no single line but displays a variety of
historical individuals.
5 . Social facts must be explained by social facts, not referred to human
subjectivity.
6. Normal integration is not inevitably interrupted by pathological
alienation.
7. Inherited property produces pathological forced division of labor.
8. Democracy replaces monarchy, an obsolescent system.
9. Philosophy as a specialized academic discipline cannot contain the
social sciences.
10. Religion must be studied as an institution, not for any philosophical
truth it may contain.

PETER KNAPP

of the integration of these different social elements is the central problem of


Durkheimian sociology.
Third, Hegel suggested that during world history, the world spirit or
Weltgeist develops through a series of distinct stages, each the spirit of its age,
or Zeitgeist. In turn, each spirit of an age is embodied in the national character
of a distinct people as a Volkgeist (1952:36; 1953:ll-12). Conceptions of Geist
merged with immensely powerful intellectual and political forces during the
nineteenth century, including nationalism, traditional religious doctrines,
liberal ideas about the development of law and of freedom, and various romantic conceptions of the creation of culture. In connection with such currents,
Hegelian ideas helped popularize the idea of a hidden, lawful, determined
developmental sequence in the West and gave enormous impetus to the systematic historical analysis of religion, art, custom, kinship, language, ethics,
and philosophy. In France as elsewhere, these ideas merged with an outpouring of new historical, anthropological, legal, and literary information
and with Enlightenment, positivist, and retrograde-traditionalist analyses.
They formed a basic foundation for Durkheimian theory.
Fourth, the concepts of Zatgait and Volksgeist embodied the idea that all
social and cultural institutions form a functional system. Hegel formulated
this idea as the rationality of the actual; Durkheim, as functional need.
Fifth, Hegel believed that humans only become human by participation
in the system of objective spirit, which he further related to traditional religious doctrines and moral ideas. Moral, intellectual, and religious forces are
for Hegel living Spirit. Thus Hegel regarded universal history as a theodicy.
The march of reason to freedom is providential. It is the march of God. Accordingly, sixth, Hegels conception of Geist contains a sociological theory of
religion. He believed that values, especially religious values, form the core of
social structure and the basis of moral life and the state (1971:284,296). Both
Durkheims view of the social nature of humanity, homo duplex (Lukes,
1973: 410-434), and his theory of religion (1887; compare Giddens, 1970:177;
1897a:650-651) are deeply indebted to these analyses. This despite Durkheims self-report, which places the realization of religions importance about
1895 (1907:613).
Hegels conception of religion is only one section of one portion of his
analysis of culture, norms, and social structure. He distinguished three major
regions of Geist, nested within each other: subjective, objective, and absolute.
He further divided and subdivided each of these. Subjective spirit most nearly
refers to mind in the sense of an individuals psychological faculties, abstracted from social institutions and historical development. But for Hegel
even subjective spirit is a collective entity. It includes language and the social
and cultural interactions through which humans develop self-consciousness

HEGELIAN INFLUENCE UPON DURKHEIM 7

as well as both cognitive and practical (or normative) theories. At the other extreme, the concept of absolute spirit refers basically to cultural products that
transcend the social structure within which they arise. Hegel subdivided
absolute spirit into art, religion, and philosophy. He made each the subject of
multivolume cycles of lectures that, during the nineteenth century, had a wide
impact on literary criticism, theology, history, and philosophy. Studies stemming from these-lectures were a major source of Durkheims insight that
humans become fully human only through participation in nested, interrelated, historically developing social and cultural structures. Sandwiched between the analyses of subjective and of absolute spirit and central to any direct
Hegelian influence on Durkheim is the analysis of objective spirit. Objective spirit
is, roughly, the realm of social institutions and obligatory, sanctioned behavior, especially law. While Hegel and Durkheim sharply disagreed on some
basic political questions, they also shared important views stemming from the
analysis of spirit.
A seventh Hegelian view crucial for Durkheim is the view that the thrust
of western history is the development of freedom in law that is rational and
universal (allgemeine: also universalistic, popular, general, and common).
Eighth, Hegel viewed the basis of liberty as obedience to law. Humans can
only be free insdfar as they have mastered themselves through law. Thus,
Durkheim argued, in a passage equally distinctive of Hegel, Nothing is
falser than this antagonism too often presented between legal authority and individual liberty. Quite the contrary, liberty (we mean genuine liberty, which
it is societys duty to have respected) is the product of regulation (1933:3).
These similarities in Hegels and Durkheims overall formulations are grounded
upon a host of more specific commonalities in their detailed views on the importance of Roman property law, Christianity, and other historical sources of
western political beliefs and on the function of punishment, custom, and organizations in maintaining them.
For example, Hegel and Durkheim both viewed the basic problem of
modernity as the creation of authoritative intermediary bodies between the
individual and the state. Important differences separate Hegels analysis of the
corporation (1952: 152- 155) from the quasi-syndicalist proposals closing
Durkheims major early works (1933: 1-31, 406-409; 1951: 378-392; 1957:
1-41). Nevertheless, both men sought to modify the medieval corporation to
provide normative mediation between the individual and the modern state.
Finally, tenth, it can be argued that the central theme of Hegels philosophy as a whole is the breakdown of religious, intellectual, organizational,
moral, and political bases of community in modern society. The fundamental
concepts of alienation, splitting, and contradiction and the antinomies between subject and object, individual and universal, finite and infinite, truth

PETERKNAPP

and certainty, etc., may be related to this central issue (Cullen 1979). However one reads Hegels famous dialectic, most theorists believe its main topic
is the splitting of an immediate whole into antagonistic parts and their later
reconciliation. For example, the Phenomenology d Spirit portrays some thirtythree scientific, philosophical, artistic, political, moral, or religious configurations or gestalts. Each of these is subject to irresolvable internal conflicts, and
after about fifteen pages each self-destructs, creating a new configuration. A
recurrent theme in Hegels analyses is the breakup of medieval society represented by the Reformation and the French Revolution.
Durkheims main lifetime theoretical concern likewise centered on the
breakup of social integration, in egoism and anomie. While he adopted neither
the terms nor the constructs of Hegel, he did depend upon critiques of individualism that extended from the far right to the far left of the political spectrum (Lukes, 1973:206-207, 330-354). Durkheims work on individualism
and anomie resembles important aspects of Hegel because of their common
concern with the breakdown of normative integration. The fundamental
analysis of the shift from mechanical to organic solidarity as well as major
aspects of the historical analyses on which it is based are prefigured in Hegels
analyses (for example, that of the relation of individuality and universalism
within civil society).

Breaks between Hegel and Durkheim


The preceding argument is not intended to substitute a Hegelian Durkheim for a Comtian one. Rather, it attempts to underscore conceptual parallels
important to the development of social theory in the nineteenth century that
are also important to the integration of contemporary sociology. One reason
the relationships have been overlooked is that it is taken for granted in todays
history of social theory that Durkheim was almost exclusively influenced b y
theorists in the French tradition (Parsons, 1968:307; Lukes, 1973:90-94). The
idea that French influence is preeminent in Durkheims thought is central to
Parsons argument that there occurred a convergence to voluntarism from
independent traditions (1968: 11-12; but compare Durkheim, 1953:xiv and
contrast Pope, 1973).
Durkheim refers to Hegel rarely and disparagingly (for example, 1957:
54). Partly this reflected a number of sharp oppositions between the two. In
addition to the commonalities between Hegel and Durkheim discussed above,
Figure 1 also schematizes ten oppositions between them, briefly discussed
below.
First, methodologically, Durkheim had a central and lifelong aim to
guarantee sociology as a specialized, empirical, academic discipline (Bendix,
1971). Hence he directed sharp polemics against any speculative system that

HEGELIAN INFLUENCE UPON DURKHEIM 9

threatened that specialization or that was uninformative about concrete,


relevant empirical data. Second, from his aim followed Durkheims concern
with specificity of ethnographic, sociological, and historical data and related
explanatory principles, a concern absent from Hegels works. In one sphere
after another Durkheim pioneered the use of systematic empirical data within
theoretical sociology. This is true not only of statistical data in Suicide but
applies equally to his use of legal and ethnographic data (Alpert, 1939: 123129, 190-198). Durkheim insists that such studies be complemented by historical analyses (1969:3 1-36). Third, however, these studies introduced and
worked through a series of problems that have no parallel in Hegel. They are
the basis for his dismissing as philosophical dilettantism arguments that failed
to grapple with relevant data and specific explanatory principles (for example,
1969:565-568).
Fourth, Durkheims distinctive methodological principles led to his arguing for the existence of diverse historical individuals and sequences as opposed
to universal history. Yet it connects as much as divides the two theorists to interpret several of Durkheims most distinctive methodological principles as
consciously opposed to Hegel. For example, fifth, the principle that social
facts must explain social facts was probably directed in part against the notion
of meaningful interpretation and rational development embedded in literary,
social, legal, and religious history and associated with Hegels idea of development as produced by self-actualizing spirit.
Methodological oppositions between Hegel and Durkheim entailed substantive disagreements. Sixth, while both men analyzed moral, social breakdown, they differed in judging it. Paradoxically for the liberal Durkheim,
breakdown pathologically interrupts social integration, while Hegels view
that history justifies a given society also meant that all that exists deserves to
perish (for example, 1952: 16-20). Seventh, politically, Hegel had made property the foundation of modern freedom. Though not as sharply as Marx,
Durkheims analysis of forced division of labor suggested that inheritance of
property was inconsistent with the normal integration of modern society
(1933:377-384). Eighth, Durkheim was a committed democrat of the Third
Republic, while Hegel argued for monarchical principles deeply antagonistic
to it (Durkheim, 1957:76-109). Ninth, philosophy, for Hegel, contained
legal, aesthetic, religious, historical subsections. Durkheim, despite his social
epistemology (1915:21-33), promoted specialization. Tenth and finally, despite his modern image, Durkheims analysis of religion excludes the accommodation between theology and theory of religion present in Hegels view of
philosophy as the truth of religion.
Opposition as well as similarities between Hegel and Durkheim may be
exaggerated. A caricatured Comtian Durkheim has been opposed to a Hegel

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caricatured as historicist, speculative, metaphysical, and authoritarian. (This


Hegel was correctly exploded by Kaufmann, 1966). But often, even when
they share doctrines, Durkheim distanced himself from Hegel. Not only did
they disagree on method or substance so that reference to Hegel would have
been distasteful, but also any such reference would have been misleading.
Within Durkheirns milieu, any reference to Hegel would have raised some of
the sharpest of twentieth-century political, religious, ethical, philosophical,
and methodological controversies. Hegels place in many of these was debatable. Durkheim could not have referred to Hegelian ideas without offering
to interpret them. But any attempt at interpretation would have been subject
to costly misunderstanding, besides diverting Durkheim from the theoretical
tasks he had set himself.
Moreover, not only would identification with Hegelian argument be misleading and distasteful to Durkheim, it would have been politically disastrous,
while disagreement was politic. A major reason for this was simple nationalism
(Tiryakian, 1965; Bendix, 1971). In the revanchist atmosphere of France between the Franco-Prussian War and World War I, despite his insistence that
sociology was a French science, Durkheims opponents charged him with
importing German ideas (DePloige, 1938). Overt association with Hegel
could not promote Durkheims effort to establish sociology as an academic
discipline. Rather, it would have exposed Durkheim to withering nationalistic
intellectual attacks.
Finally, reference to Hegel at the turn of the century was relatively superfluous. Within his milieu, Durkheim could justifiably assume (as his contemporary popularizers cannot) that his audience was deeply aware, if often
distrustful, of Hegelian ideas. As Renouvier correctly states, Hegel was,
without question, the greatest philosophical figure of the century (Charlton,
1959:225).
In any case, Durkheim did explicitly relate his work to figures deeply influenced by Hegel. Specifically, he related his own work to the neo-Kantian
academic philosophers such as Boutroux and Renouvier; to figures like Robertson Smith, Renan, Cousin, and Taine engaged in wider historical debates on
religion; to the socialists; to folk-psychologists associated with Wundt; and
to German historicist thinkers.

Conclusion
In American sociology at the present time Durkheims stock is so high
and Hegels is so low that many readers will perceive any serious comparison
of them as an attack on Durkheim. Several commentators have stressed the
linkage between Durkheim and figures such as Schaffle, Wundt, or Tonnies
(DePloige, 1938; Gisbert, 1959), but they have done so in order to defend

HEGELIAN INFLUENCE UPON DURKHEIM 11

methodological individualism and criticize Durkheims social realism as a


metaphysical construct. For most sociologists, it is scandalous to argue that
the most empirical, scientific, lucid, and liberal of French sociologists shared a
large body of doctrine with the most obscure, metaphysical, antiscientific,
reactionary of German philosophers. The comparison of Hegel and Durkheim
will strike some readers as having all the interest and utility of a translation of
Shakespeare into Middle English.
Oppositions between the positivist-realist and the idealist-interpretive
traditions are exaggerated. Hegels contemporaries often regarded him as an
empiricist or uncritical positivist (Hegel, 1978:vol. 1, pp. ix-x). A number of
modern commentators have portrayed his social thought as liberal to radical
(Kaufmann, 1966; Cullen, 1979; LukBcs, 1978). Hegels treatment of the
development of knowledge and law raised a number of issues that are still of
importance. Many of his methodological views raise issues of functionalism or
interpretation that are also important. However, unlike the figures regarded
as founders of sociology, Hegels insights about social structure and process
were entangled in doctrine such as Protestant theology, speculative metaphysics, and monarchist politics. But that entanglement was key to the popularization of the ideas (contrast the number of nineteenth-century professionals concerned with religion or law or government to those concerned with
sociology) and it is less dangerous today than it was. Social theory went through
a major process of development through the nineteenth century. In Durkheims hands it changed still further. The comparison between Durkheim and
Hegel illuminates relationships important to contemporary sociology. Marx,
Durkheim, and Weber broke with different elements of Hegelian theory.
They directed explicit critiques at Hegel or Hegelians even when they did not
address each other. Therefore, Hegel provides a natural arena in which they
can be confronted with each other.
Merton developed Whiteheads dictum that everything of importance has
been said before by somebody who did not discover it (Merton, 1967:9-26).
The danger of mistaking an adumbration for a clear insight, an insight for a
conceptual scheme for a developed theory, and a theory for an empirical discipline is especially acute in the case of Hegel. Both the peculiar opaqueness of
his style and the fact that Hegel was an encyclopedic thinker whose thought incorporated major chunks of doctrine from virtually every previous philosopher
make it difficult to specify precisely how much (or how little) is implied in a
given statement. It is clear that the elements of Rousseau that Hegel adopted
via Kant and his use of Montesquieu account for some of the resemblances between Hegel and Durkheim. It is the thesis of this essay that the commonalities
between Hegel and Durkheim go beyond few insights adopted from predecessors. While the changes in problematic between Hegel and Durkheim are

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PETER KNAPP

important, parallels include a large number of the foundational and most


distinctive ideas of each theorist. In the case of Hegel, not only were these
ideas elaborated systematically but they were also developed in considerable
empirical detail in a series of multivolume works. During the nineteenth
century these works fed massive streams of scholarship with which Durkheim
was especially and centrally concerned at the end of the century.
The connection between Durkheim and Hegel spans an abyss that separates diverse traditions in the social sciences. In the generation prior to Durkheim, in addition to the figures mentioned above, such figures as Kierkegaard, T. 13. Green, W. R. Smith, Burckhardt, or Bosanquet may be most
easily related to Durkheim in light of their relation to Hegel. In Durkheims
own generation, the interpretive theories of such figures as Freud, Dewey,
Saussure, Husserl, Mead, and Croce may be most easily related to Durkheim
in light of his breaks and his commonalities with Hegel. In the following generation, such figures as Lukacs, Heidegger, Collingswood, Sartre, Schutz,
L6vi-Strauss, Gadamer, and Habermas continue traditions deeply influenced
by Hegel, although some in those traditions will find the idea of a HegelDurkheim connection quite as offensive as will many theorists within empirical mainstream sociology.
A common historical origin does not reduce real differences in methods,
aim, conceptual scheme, or theory. However, recognition of common problems does break down a sterile, splendid isolation of the different traditions.
The history of theory cannot solve theoretical and empirical disputes. But it is
indispensable in order to give those disputes form and depth that they would
otherwise lack.

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