Classical Social Theory I: Marx and Durkheim Antonino Palumbo and Alan Scott Modern Social Theory. A.

Harrington (ed.). Oxford University Press, Oxford 2005, pp. 40-62

Introduction Karl Marx and Émile Durkheim differ profoundly in their views about society. Durkheim was twenty-four on Marx's death in 1883, and rarely refers explicitly to the earlier thinker. Marx, for his part, did not subscribe to Durkheim’s later nineteenth-century vision of a liberal impartial study of society, and on those few occasions where he used August Comte's term ‘sociology,’ which had limited currency in the mid to late nineteenth century, it was to pour scorn on the pretensions of a bourgeois science of society. Despite these profound differences of outlook, however, Marx and Durkheim were both centrally concerned with the emergence of modern capitalism, and in particular with the rise of the modern system of the division of labour and with the evolution of a market society. Both approach these developments by focusing on the effects that the spread of market relations had on solidarity and on society's ability to reproduce itself. Both therefore had to engage with the causes and implications of key developments – the Industrial Revolution in particular – as well as key events such as the French Revolution. Both sought to revise the simplistic and apologetic accounts of capitalist society commonly found in nineteenth-century social thought. Where they differ most strikingly is in the conclusions – the lessons – they draw from their intellectual engagement with modernity. This chapter will introduce the main intellectual projects of Marx and Durkheim in turn. We aim to show how they produce accounts of the nature of the modern division of labour and the nature of the state and civil society that in some respects are comparable and in others radically divergent. We first discussed each thinker in relation to the epistemic and methodological novelties they introduced into social theory before moving on to their more substantive concerns.

Karl Marx (1818-1883) Points of departure: historical materialism and the critique of idealist philosophy Karl Marx was born in Trier into a middle-class rabbinical family, his father having converted to Protestantism to protect his position as a lawyer. Marx himself studied law (as well as philosophy and history) at the universities of Bonn and Berlin, where he became one of the ‘Young Hegelians’; a movement of left-leaning followers of the philosopher G.W.F. Hegel. His radicalism having barred him from an academic career, Marx turned to journalism when, in 1842, he became editor of the liberal Rheinische Zeitung. The Prussian authorities soon forced the paper to close, and in the following year Marx emigrated to Paris where he became involved in the radical politics of German émigrés and French socialists. There he met Friedrich Engels (1820-95), the son of a German industrialist with textile manufacturing interests in Manchester. 1844 saw Marx working on The Economics and Philosophical Manuscripts in which he developed a philosophical critique of capitalism on the grounds that it distorts our true nature; our ‘species-being’ (Gattungswesen). In the same year he and Engels moved to Brussels on their expulsion from France. It was in this period that Marx – still influenced by the anti-religious materialism of Ludwig Feuerbach – worked through his ideas in such books as The German Ideology. Marx’s and Engels’s Communist Manifesto, which announced the appearance of a spectre (communism) that would haunt Europe, appeared with uncanny timing in 1848, the year of revolutions throughout continental Europe. In that year Marx was able to return to Germany in order to found the radical Neue Rheinische Zeitung in Cologne, but

this too was suppressed forcing Marx to emigrate to London where he was to spend the rest of his life. In Britain, Marx and Engels continued to involve themselves in the politics of the Communist League with the aim of convincing the communist movement to adopt their scientific approach. It was in London that Marx devoted himself to both historical and economic research, famously in the Reading Room of the British Library. His mature works are marked by a shift away from the philosophical influences of his youth – of which he had already been critical – towards the materialism of his economic theories. His attention focused increasingly on Scottish and English political economy (Adam Smith’s and David Ricardo’s in particular), and it was his intellectual engagement with, and critique of, political economy that was to mark the highpoint of his thought and enable him to develop a general theory of capitalism. The 1850s and 60s saw the publication of the key works of Marxist economic theory culminating in the, much delayed, publication of volume one of Das Kapital in 1867. Marx’s health, declined in the 1870s and it was only after his death in 1883 that the second and third volumes of Capital appeared, edited by Engels.

Historical Materialism and its Intellectual Roots Marx believed himself to be uncovering the scientific laws underpinning the capitalist, bourgeois society of his time. Those laws where to be arrived at through the application of a general theory of social change, which later came to be known as ‘historical materialism.’ Marx describes social change as a succession of ‘stages of development’ each of which is part of a well-defined sequence or pattern. In his 1859 Preface to the Critique of Political Economy he summarizes the main tenets of historical materialist in a short, breathtaking passage.
In the social production of their life, men inevitably enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production that correspond to a definite stage in the development of their material productive forces. The sum of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness. (1859: 389)

As an explanatory framework, historical materialism arises as a reaction to Hegel’s idealist philosophy, and especially to the version subscribed to by the Young Hegelians. Whereas Hegel viewed human history as the unfolding of Absolute Spirit, and saw the state as the highest expression community, and Christianity as the highest form of religion, Marx adopts a materialistic outlook of history, the state and religion deeply indebted to Ludwig Feuerbach’s critique of Hegel’s philosophy. In place of Hegel’s idealism, Feuerbach offers a radical materialism, summed up in a now famous pun: ‘Man ist was er isst’ (one is what one eats). Religion, for Feuerbach, is merely the projection of human qualities onto God, and thus a symptom of our alienated and mediated state. Thus armed, Marx mounted scathing attacks on central Hegelian themes. Religion, the state and bourgeois society were seen not as the embodiment of Hegel’s Idea, but as ideological reflexes of society’s material structure. History was, thus, not an account of the long march of Reason in human affairs, but the chronicle of the ongoing struggle between exploiters and exploited, while religion was 'the devious acknowledgement of man, through an intermediary' (1843: 218) – i.e. God, Christ, or the church. From Hegel he quickly moved to a wholesale critique of philosophy as a potential instrument of social change and emancipation. However, in ‘Concerning Feuerbach’ (better knows as the ‘Theses on Feuerbach’), Marx not only criticized the later for his merely contemplative version of materialism, but famously stated that 'the philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it' (1845: 423). Notwithstanding his dissent from Hegel and dissatisfaction with philosophy, Marx’s historical materialism is deeply indebted to both. From the former he retains a teleological conception of 2

not its starting point. Marx viewed a materialist approach to history as his major intellectual discovery and contribution to the critical analysis of capitalism. the division of labour is the unintended consequence of multiple individual actions each of which is driven by self-seeking natural drives. Finally. The Genesis of Capitalism as a Mode of Production Marx maintains that the individual producer depicted by political economy is the product of a market society. production. Marx attempted to show that class relations were inherently conflictual and that the capitalist mode of production actually rested on the systemic exploitation of one class (the proletariat) by another (the capitalist). Significantly. and in particular from the view that social change is the outcome of the attempt to solve an inherent contradiction between contrasting historical forces. historical materialism represents a powerful intellectual achievement and the original product of a first-rate speculative mind. Production by an isolated individual outside society [. The social and historical nature of man leads Marx to connect individual action to the role it occupies within a given system of production and the class division it engenders and reproduces.. and political arrangements and contribute to the development of a revolutionary political movement that would. Marx's lifelong objective was the refutation of this. money. in his view simplistic and apologetic. The critique of political economy Marx's critique of capitalism develops as an attempt to undermine the claim that the division of labour and the capitalist organization of production are merely the spontaneous outcome of the natural human tendency to produce and exchange. eventually.history in which historical facts are connected to each other in a somewhat deterministic fashion shaped by the goal to which history leads. it is the combined effects of the increase in productivity caused by the functional differentiation of roles and tasks plus the mutual benefits that those involved in the productive process derive from this differentiation that explain the coincidence of private and public interests.] is as much of an absurdity as is the development of language without individuals living together and talking to each other' (1973: 84). Marx adopted a key principle of German philosophy: the work of science is the work of critique. 3 . In addition. abolish class divisions and emancipate the individual. narrative of capitalism.. and perhaps somewhat paradoxically. According to Smith. That view found a famous expression in the early pages of Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations (1776). Marx derives the dialectical method from Hegel. This explanatory framework was then used to unmask the ideological nature of bourgeois social. and thus cannot be used to supply ‘causal rock-bottom explanation’ of social phenomena. Marx points out that the reference to isolated individuals makes the account supplied by political economy incoherent: ‘the human being is [. To this end he advanced an account of social change that dismisses the abstract and rather naive individualism underlying political economy. Indeed. Similar steps are taken in relation to all the main concepts and categories used by political economy: labour. It is the market's ‘invisible hand’ that ensures that the public good is secured even though – or rather precisely because – each individual is pursuing his or her own interests.] an animal which can individuate itself only in the midst of society. legal. Also. beliefs and identities are context-dependent. Marx accepts Hegel’s idea that individual desires. Marx believed that both the inherently exploitative nature of capitalism and its inevitable self-destruction could be demonstrated from the standpoint of political economy itself. ownership. etc. For Smith.. Although his historical works and political analyses are very subtle and often even at odds with the tenets of historical materialism.” (ii) its internal working and (iii) its future evolution. market. The refutation of political economy was to be carried out by supplying a more compelling analysis of: (i) the genesis of the capitalist “mode of production. whatever its shortcomings. exchange..

that ‘mode of production’ which. and exchange means.g. the enclosure of common lands. the realization of value (profit).] on the other hand. for the market. as their emancipation from serfdom and from the fetters of the guilds [. The first explanation focuses on technical innovation as the engine of social change (Cohen 1988). synonymous with the extension of the commodification of goods and services. Marx distinguishes 4 . as the embodiment of equivalent values. dynamic and expanding market. Forms of production and exchange – e. Marx argues that the genesis of the capitalist system of production is to be found in the disintegration of feudalism and of the system of social relations supporting it the historical movement which changes the producers into wage-labourers. Marx follows David Ricardo in distinguishing between an object's ‘use value’ and its ‘exchange value. The exchange value of an object is. and thus the absorption of more and more productive activity within the money economy. and for profit. The acts of expropriation Marx refers to here are the confiscation of the property of the church and other religious institutions. labour and exploitation. social change can only occur through the dissolution of the system of social relations that underpins a historically given mode of production. Money. Commodities are items produced with the sole purpose of being sold – i. The past and future development of capitalism is. the value that object has as an article of trade (this does not necessarily equal its price). Those changes had the effect of creating a system – capitalism .The social nature of labour.’ and his account of this historical development contains two distinct explanations for the dissolution of feudal society and for the emergence of capitalism. whereas the second stresses the role played by class conflict (Katz 1993). capitalism is sharply distinguished from hoarding and piracy.e. Human labour has the unique capacity to generate more value than it uses up in reproducing itself.under which members of the exploited class (the proletariat) have all but no direct access to the means necessary to ensure their material well-being (the ‘means of production’). Accordingly. (iii) a competitive. Thus. appears. and of all the guarantees of existence afforded by the old feudal arrangements' (1976: 875). Capitalism: its inner workings and dark side ‘Capitalism. and the systematic destruction of rights guaranteed by tradition. uniquely. that individuals face historically given productive forces as an external objective reality they cannot change. is the necessary medium in this expanding cycle. for Marx. Thus.’ the system installed by primitive accumulation. is. and its reinvestment in production. Thus. capitalism is unique because commodity production becomes the dominant organizing principle for all of society's productive activities.’ All manufactured or deployed objects have a use value for their users. they are produced exclusively for their exchange value. In contrast to political economists like Ricardo. (ii) commodity production and the profit principle..’ Commodity production is a necessarily circular process of production. for Marx. barter – that exist outside the money economy are gradually displaced by market relations until. Although commodity production existed in precapitalist societies. all production becomes commodity production and money becomes the sole medium of transaction. production. combines the following characteristics: (i) private ownership of the means of production. Exploitation based upon principles of personal subjugation and obligation has been replaced by the seeming objectivity of the labour contract and by the ‘cash nexus. on the one hand. for Marx. theoretically at least. Marx proposes a ‘labour theory of value’ according to which human labour is the sole source of all value. In characterizing the nature of capitalist production.. these new freemen became sellers of themselves only after they had been robbed of all their own means of production. the dismantling of the medieval system of guilds. instead. Thus. Both explanations are central to Marx’s definition of capitalism and his reflections on the concepts of value.’ The process that brings this about Marx labels ‘so-called primitive accumulation. All production becomes production for the market where the exchange value of the product is ‘realized.

a commodity like any other... comes to exercise an all but objective power over the human subject. In later works. From Exploitation To Self-Destruction: The Immanent Tendency Of Capitalism Marx argues that under conditions of alienation and exploitation. The social character of activity. Marx emphasizes that ‘labour power’ is itself. but now it no longer belongs to him.] regards the other in accordance with the standard and the situation in which he as a worker finds himself' (1844b: 330).. ‘externalization’ (Entäußerung) ‘reification’ (Versachlichung/Verdinglichung). In early works. under capitalism. his true species-objectivity' (1844b: 329). but also in the fact that all things are other than themselves.and this goes for capitalists too . the value necessary to reproduce labour power) and ‘surplus value’ (the value added by labour beyond that expended in the act of production). Under the rule of money. but forced. (1844b: 366). he describes this double process of commodification-cumexploitation of labour as a process of ‘alienation’ or ‘estrangement’ (Entfremdung) [see Box 1].] the contradiction of an existing world of wealth and culture' (1970: 56). itself a product of that labour. one commodity above all comes to exemplify this domination of the ‘world of things’ over the ‘human world’: money. who employs it to describe the process of inwardness.] tears away from him his species-life. In the German Ideology.. 'His labour is [. In the former case. the social connection between persons is transformed into a social relation between things. 'each man [.] not voluntary. while in the latter case it describes a process of fragmentation and loss of selfhood.. The term is derived from Hegel. This has profound implications for any project of emancipation. Marx here distinguishes four main types of alienation: • from the product of labour. Marx then characterises capitalism as a system of exploitation in which surplus value is extracted from wage labour and in which the commodity. 'The worker places his life in the object. […] appears as something alien and objective. • from labour itself. Money is. Marx also makes clear that 'although private property appears as the basis and cause of alienated labour. it is in fact its consequence' (1844b: 332)... 'estranged labour [. but as their subordination to relations which subsist independently of them […].an inhuman power rules over everything. alienation (Entfremdung) represents a socio-psychological condition describing the separation or estrangement of individuals from their natural and social environments. such that their relationship with them becomes either reflexive or distant. • from the labourer him or herself. 5 . not as their relation to one another. • from other persons. in Marx's phrase. Crucially. but to the object' (1844b: 324).. alienation is often used as a close synonym for a number of related terms: ‘objectification’ (Vergegenständlichung). Marx and Engels explain that alienation can be abolished only when it has 'rendered the great mass of humanity “propertyless” and produced [. it is forced labour' (1844b: 326). the notion of alienation is subsumed under the more technical category of ‘exploitation.e. (1973: 157). Marx's most extensive discussion is carried out in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 where he writes that estrangement appears not only in the fact that the means of my life belong to another and that my desire is the inaccessible possession of another. that my activity is other than itself. and that finally . 'an objectified relation between persons' (1973: 160).between the labour-value expended in the act of production (i.’ Box 1: Alienation For Marx. to be bought and sold on the market at a given price. confronting the individuals.

means that it has an inbuilt dynamism. Those critiques are relevant because we find here a less deterministic Marx. what Marx calls 'the immanent law of capitalistic production' (1976: 929). The profit that the capitalist realizes when the product is brought to market is ultimately dependent upon the ratio of ‘surplus’ to ‘necessary’ labour power. the development of ‘machinofacture. Marx's first argument is that the political emancipation of Jews (or any other oppressed religious community) in practice means not their emancipation at all. Large-scale industry. we also need to move beyond economics and examine his account of the role of the state. The critique of the state and civil society In order to understand the full force of Marx's social theory. Marx's own question is simple: what does civil and political emancipation mean within a capitalist society? Marx argues that the question of Jewish emancipation can only be resolved by being subsumed under the question of human emancipation. and new means of reducing labour costs. more effective to increase its productive efficiency through the substitution of machines for humans. new (preferably cheaper and/or more efficient) sources of labour (and new ‘reserve armies of labour’). For these reasons ‘modern industry never views or treats the existing form of a production process as the definitive one’ (1976: 617) and capitalism remains in constant state of flux. By this point in time. political emancipation' (1843: 212). Substantive Emancipation: The Critique of Political Liberalism The most systematic statement of his views on all these matters is to be found in his early writings. capitalists must constantly look for new markets. and makes the work of criticism a necessary component of the work of transforming a capitalist into a post-capitalist – or communist – order. however. Formal Liberties vs. which he conceives of as more than mere political emancipation. its relations to civil society (bürgerliche Gesellschaft). Capitalism must constantly revolutionize the ‘forces of production’ (e. To this end. This ratio can be increased in a number of ways.In volume one of Capital.g. In the long run it is. he puts forward three main arguments the goal of which is to undermine the relevance of political emancipation within the constraints of the liberal state. universal equal liberties in a class divided society and the distinction between public and private spheres in an increasing alienated world. It is this pseudo-objectivity that gives capitalism its opaque quality. and especially in On the Jewish Question of 1843. and the nature of rights. machines and know-how). and (ii) a critique of reformist socialist movements as ineffective (or utopian) forces of social emancipation. Marx considers the demand of the Jews for civil. This internal dynamic. a thinker who emphasizes the role of class struggle and the interplay between the objective and subjective elements of class consciousness. Thus. will also be responsible for the development of a spiralling cycle of crises of overproduction amidst the generalized pauperization of the working class. At the start of the Jewish Question. capitalism will have created the conditions for its self-destruction and for the revolutionary advent of a classless communist society.’ and ultimately the expansion of capitalism and the division of labour it creates onto a world scale are merely the realization of the inner logic that has driven it from the start. At the earliest stage of its development. Marx refers to this as ‘commodity fetishism’: the disappearance of human agency behind the products of that agency. One is simply to suppress or cut wages. The individual capitalist is faced with a simple alternative: growth and change or bankruptcy. capitalism is characterised by the workshop: it brings together workers in the factory where specialization of skills (a growing division of labour) can then develop. This drive for efficiency. Failure to modernize will be punished by the market's competitive mechanisms. but the emancipation of the state from 6 . reinforced by the fact that capitalism is a competitive system. Marx's political writings offer a double critique: (i) a critique of liberal social and political institutions as ideological products of the bourgeoisie.

so political freedom merely stands in for human freedom as a weak and mediated substitute. most substantial and best-known. and the soul of soulless conditions’: The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. the USA. Substitution can occur here where this creates the illusion that the state is the opposite of private property. where he is active as a private individual. End box 7 . not because we are free. Religion is at once ‘the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Marx famously refers to religion as the ‘opium of the people’ (1975b). This is why the passage quoted above continues: 'The relationship of the political state to civil society is just as spiritual as the relationship of heaven to earth'. as with heaven. The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo. dominated by religion – despite resting on the formal separation of church and state. and in civil society. (1975b: 244). as in earthly life. a state in which the church has been formally disestablished. we live out our desire for freedom and sociability (while both remain beyond earthly reach). science will expose the illusion of the other world and religion alike. American politics remained in Marx’s day. and in competition with. and in civil society. which had already attained this level of emancipation. the heart of a heartless world. in this case by the state. Marx maintains that since religion represents an ‘ideological reflex’ of actual economic relations. The third. is not a state in which real human beings are free. religion administers to true needs in false ways. The equation of political freedom with human freedom merely serves to keep us in the thrall of one of the instruments of our unfreedom. the state becomes a kind of secular church. each other. A state thus emancipated. In the short ‘Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right’ (1843-4). and remains today. i. The demand for political emancipation at the time often takes the form of the demand for the lifting of property qualifications on franchise. we act under ‘alien powers’ in opposition to. Just as religion is a kind of ersatz freedom (and thus an expression of enslavement). argument of On The Jewish Question is first mooted in the following passage: Where the political state has attained its full degree of development man leads a double life. regards other men as means and becomes the plaything of alien powers. For those with a fetish for political emancipation. This ‘ersatz’ or ‘substitution’ argument is further supported through the example of private property. The religious parallel is further extended: ‘earthly life’ now appears in the form of civil society. Political emancipation is likewise mediated. The state should annul private property as a condition of political participation. a life in heaven and a life on earth. where he regards himself as a communal being. but in reality. but because we are not.religion (1843: 218). Box 2: Marx On Religion Marx's thought on religion epitomizes the more militant side of enlightenment. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. Within the political community. Marx takes the case of the North American states.’ It is ‘the sigh of the oppressed creature. He points out that the history of the US shows neither much evidence of real human freedom nor much evidence of the disappearance of religion as a social and political fact. its critique represents the necessary precondition for the unmasking of all other ideological forms. He lives in the political community. We need the political community for exactly the same reason as we need heaven. Like a misused drug.e. (1843: 220) Here the formal parallel between the religious and the political realm is sustained. or that it is a means for the revocation of property in general. Religion promises something that the system it serves has no ability ever to deliver. By shedding light on the actual workings of this world. in his consciousness. Marx's second argument rests upon a formal parallel between political emancipation and religion itself. not only in his mind.

or rather dissolution of. Political emancipation perpetuates a situation in which our communal life is confined to an ideal (political) realm. or to ourselves as members of a community: (1843: 221). the alteration of men on a mass scale is necessary. i. Not only do these rights include rights to property and its protection. political freedom becomes freedom of private individuals from social constraints on their rights 'to pursue their own interests in their own ways' as J. It is this revolutionary consciousness which assures the spontaneous harmony between individual and collective interest and makes the communist society 'an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all' (1967: 105). (1973: 177-78).e. Revolution: The Critique of Petty-Bourgeois Socialism Similar objections will later be repeated against all socialist movements whose goal is not the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism. a revolution.The more important aspect of this last argument is the thought that this ‘double life’ is reflected in the unsatisfactory double emancipation to which demands for political freedom and recognition give rise. his right to property' (1843: 230). In Marx's system of ideas. Mill put it. This critique of political emancipation leads Marx to a more generalized rejection of the discourse of rights: 'the so-called rights of man. the concept of police [Polizei]' in which 'society is only there to guarantee each of its members the conservation of his person. Marx’s 1871 8 . Politics and society too have a double life. Napoleon III: the imperial French state was dedicated to the defence of the property interests of the French middle classes. and man separated from other men and from the community' (1843: 229). as unrealizable ideal existence (as community) and as realized existence but in the reduced form of the guarantee of individual property (as Polizei). Likewise. In The Communist Manifesto Marx goes so far as to describe the state as little more than a mere ‘committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie’ (Marx and Engels 1967: 82). interest (1843: 233). this revolution is necessary. but its political reform. This claim extends the third argument in a significant respect.S. but also ‘liberty’ conceived as non-interference. as already noted. This idea comes to the fore in the German Ideology. Thus. where he claims that. and for the success of the cause itself. while freeing us as private individuals to pursue our egotistical interests without thought to others as human subjects. they must be transformed into something higher ('aufgehoben'). This awareness entails the passage from what Marx calls classin-itself to class-for-itself. but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew' (1970: 94-5). Both for the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness. of egotistic man. only then will human emancipation be complete' (1843: 234). From this Marx concludes that the 'practical application of the right of man to freedom is of man to private property' (1843: 229). Reform vs. therefore. On the one hand. From this his solution to. In the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte he observed the populist dictatorship of the French leader of the Second Empire. an alteration which can only take place in a practical movement.. security becomes 'the supreme concept of civil society. as distinct from the rights of the citizen. for Marx the state does not stand above society. a revolutionary process has the function of making the individual aware of his or her condition as a member of an exploited social class. but the propertied. not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way. and thus represents not the general. but is intimately involved in the reproduction of property relations. the Jewish question follows quickly. again in opposition to Hegel. Because the demands for political emancipation replicate both the idealism of the state and the materialism of civil society. this freedom amounts to the freedom of the state rather than its subjects. on the other hand. are quite simply the rights of the members of civil society. namely into a demand for human emancipation that entails the dissolution of the distinction between state and civil society and with it the rights of the private individual: 'only when […] social force is no longer separated from him in the form of political force.

Suicide. where he aligned himself with progressive liberals. Posthumously published books. but with an object of investigation (the social fact) that is entirely its own. Summary Marx’s thought is thus a heady mix of philosophy. and particularly the injunction to ‘treat social facts as things. The ethical-philosophical nature of the earlier works increasingly gives way to the materialism of his late economic theories. but all with a common purpose: to expose the underlying logic of capitalism from its birth to its inevitable self-destruction. His third major work. something Durkheim freely acknowledged: 'yet because what we propose to study is above all reality. There he tried to apply his positivist methods.’ to the case of suicide where. then Durkheim represents the social theorist as moral educator. appeared in 1893. a subject which much occupied him throughout his career. As part of his effort to establish sociology as an academic discipline during this period he founded the influential journal L’Année sociologique. In 1887 Durkheim acquired a teaching position at the University of Bordeaux and his first major work. the last major work published during his lifetime. appeared 1912. his occasional interests in politics were illustrated by the stance he took in the Drayfus affair in the 1890s. appeared in 1897. Durkheim had not only established a reputation for himself. In these texts Durkheim tries to work through a form of political and social liberalism that addressed the dangers to social solidarity inherent in the more strictly economic liberalism of the British utilitarians. But Durkheim’s understanding of the relationship between science and politics was quite different from Marx’s. The Elementary Forms of Religions Life. 9 . in which he analysed the sources of social solidarity in modern and pre-modern societies. he sought to demonstrate that even this most individual and lonely of acts lends itself to sociological analysis. The Rules of Sociological Method. but the theme of capitalism’s exploitative and destructive character runs like a red-thread though the entire oeuvre. it does not follow that we should give up the idea of improving it' (1984: xxvi).account of the Paris Commune represents a case study of how this remarkable change in man could take place and a blueprint for the future communist organization of society. including Marcel Mauss. In 1902 Durkheim was appointed to the Sorbonne where in 1906 he became Professor of Education. Maurice Halbwachs and George Bataille. his programmatic statement for the new science of sociology. If Marx is the representative figure of the social theorist as firebrand. The Elementary Forms offers in many respects a more complex and subtle analysis than that to be found in earlier works. such as Moral Education and Professional Ethics and Civic Morals. have confirmed Durkheim’s reputation as a moral and political thinker with wider interests than those of rationalist scientist of the more narrowly sociological works. Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) Points of departure: science. politics and economics. in his essays on socialism. Nevertheless. The Division of Labour. in the Lorraine district of France into a rabbinical family. he had also secured sociology within the French academy and exercised considerable influence over the following generation of French thinkers. Consistent with such a view. Durkheim understood sociology as a 'positive science' in Comte's sense: as providing impartial and universally valid knowledge of the social world. social facts and ‘rules of sociological method’ Émile Durkheim (1858-1917) was born. By the time of his death. appeared two years later. These early work aimed to establish sociology as an autonomous science on the same footing as biology. his concerns have a clear ethical and political caste. and – as a response to the First World War in which he lost is only son – in his analysis of nationalism and patriotism. but he was not himself religious as an adult. who turned Durkheim's insights in often surprising directions. using a wide range of statistical data. Durkheim studied philosophy at the Ecole Normale Supérieure (1879-82) after which he taught in lycées near Paris.

The captain who feels morally obliged to ‘go down with his ship.Social Facts and the Autonomy of Sociology Durkheim’s work is characterized by two parallel scientific projects. But Durkheim’s aim in Suicide is not to explain individual suicides. are no less real. but to describe related or contrasting ‘pathologies’ or ‘morbidities’ affecting the social fabric. That Catholic countries generally have lower rates of suicide than Protestant ones is for Durkheim not so much a reflection of the fact that for Catholicism suicide is a cardinal sin (after all the efficacy of notions such as ‘sin’ themselves depend on the degree of solidarity). the Division of Labour. and (ii) defining a methodology apt to this sort of inquiry. since ‘social facts [consists] of manners of acting and thinking […] capable of exercising a coercive influence on the consciousness of individuals’ (1982: 43). Mill and social Darwinians like Herbert Spencer.’ or those (increasingly rare) politicians forced to ‘fall on their swords’ – which even today can occasionally mean taking ones life rather than merely resigning ones post – are examples of altruistic suicide. This claim entails two distinct epistemic assertions. Durkheim’s second concern was to work out a theory of social change that could supply a sound scientific analysis of specific features of modern. which although distinct from natural phenomena. This distinction..S. The Rules starts with the claim that social facts are things and must be studied as such. by stating that social facts are things. find a practical application in Durkheim’s work on suicide [See Box 3]. he maintains that ‘The determining cause of a social fact must be sought among antecedent social facts and not among the states of individual consciousness’ (1982: 134). Durkheim’s alternative methodology is succinctly spelled out in The Rules of Sociological Method. Durkheim grew increasingly dissatisfied with the individualist account and methodology of utilitarians like J. This entails attributing to the social realm some degree of autonomy from the physical. and suggest adequate solutions to the problems posed by the so-called ‘social question. The separate epistemic nature of social facts justifies the existence of sociology as an autonomous discipline and calls for a distinctive sociological method. this method has to follow that of the natural sciences. In The Rules. together with the methodological rules stated here. End Box. Durkheim maintains that there is a set of social phenomena. for he accepts the positivist idea that science deals with the study of causal relations. industrial societies. Here Durkheim distinguishes three main forms of suicide – anomic. However. Box 3: Suicide This work represents a kind of synthesis of the concerns with social solidarity – or its absence – in modern societies with the methodological and programmatic concerns. Durkheim also attempted to bridge the gap opened by positivism between prescription and description by suggesting a highly contentious distinction between normal and pathological phenomena. egotistic and altruistic – and for each he researches the social determinants that explain the cause of allegedly personal choices. On the other hand. The first is that of turning sociology into an autonomous and well-defined scientific discipline. but rather the variability of suicide rates with both the types and strengths of social solidarity. Weber’s Protestant ethic thesis). Similarly. and is thus in danger of inducing egotism and anxiety (cf. On the one hand. 10 . For Durkheim. These categories not only enable Durkheim to classify different types of suicide. it is rather an index of the extent to which Protestantism encourages individualism and self-reliance. and counterintuitively. This entailed two massive undertakings: (i) identifying a peculiar set of phenomena that call for a genuinely sociological investigation. In developing his analysis of the modern division of labour. This latter concern is at the root of his first major work. Durkheim contends that they are external to – and exercise coercive power over – the individual. and thus cannot be reduced to psychological laws nor studied through introspection. while lonely and isolated individuals – stereotypically the bed sit dweller – provide paradigmatic examples of anomic suicide. rapid economic growth frequently correlates with relatively high suicide rates because periods of economic growth are also associated with rapid change of the kind that can bring about anomie.’ (social conflict and inequality).

The Modern Division Of Labour and Effects on Social Solidarity Echoing Marx. The former Durkheim refers to as ‘retributive’ and the 11 . Durkheim maintains that the division of labour can be the source of a new type of solidarity better suited to the modern human condition. however. social change cannot be the outcome of a utilitarian cost-benefit analysis. in disagreement with Marx. Moreover. Durkheim agrees with Marx in that the locus where this denser social interaction takes place is the city: the urban space where the newly liberated people eventually converge. Durkheim does not see social classes as the main determinants of individual consciousness. However. by a stronger sense of individual uniqueness and a correspondingly weaker identification with the community in its entirety. Whereas in pre-modern society the entire community takes revenge on the individual who violated its rules in order to reassert itself in the fact of the violation.Modernity. He asserts that what pushed people to specialize was the increase in ‘social density’ caused by the disintegration of the old segmentary society and the struggle for survival that this higher density generated. the difference between old segmentary and modern pluralistic societies lies in the kinds of solidarity through which social cohesion is maintained. but as a source of social solidarity. Unlike Marx. Durkheim postulates that 'the progress of labour is in direct proportion to the moral or dynamic density of society' (1984: 201. Traditional societies are characterised by ‘mechanical solidarity’ and a strong senses of commonality (conscience collective). Social Differentiation and Solidarity Durkheim follows Marx in presenting the modern division of labour as an epoch-making event the genesis of which is connected to the disintegration of feudal society. Here Durkheim stresses the role norms and moral discipline play in structuring individual action and developing a healthy personality. Durkheim claims that since individual consciousness and preferences are socially and historically constructed. members of pre-modern societies have a weak sense of personal identity or self. He thus realizes Marx's attempt to replace political economy's abstract and universal model of agency (homo economicus) with a more substantive and socially embedded agency: homo sociologicus. emphasis added). 'Every consciousness beats as one.’ as he rather dramatically puts it (1984: 106). for Durkheim. These differences can. Durkheim views the division of labour not so much as a means to class exploitation. Lacking strong internal differentiation or a developed division of labour. he characterises class division as a pathological product of modernity. This diverse reading of modern market societies leads Durkheim to support an alternative course of action to that of the proletarian revolution advocated by Marx. In contrast. but to the fact that people belonging to separate social groups come to interact more frequently and on a permanent basis. be seen in the ways in which these two societal forms punish rule breakers. The increase in social density is not due to simple demographic growth. but a correspondingly strong sense of community. both assert that what accounts for the modern division of labour is the increase in ‘social density’ caused by the disintegration of the old segmentary society and the struggle for survival that this higher density generated. Accordingly. Moreover. Like Marx. to return him or her to a functioning role within the division of labour. For both the passage from the old order to the new entails a process of liberation of the individual from tradition and the emergence of a new kind of consciousness affirming the primacy of personal identity over group identity (‘individualization’). For him. modern societies are characterised by diversity. Thus. Durkheim claims that the modern division of labour was possible only because of the collapse of the previous social order rather than cause. Similarities can also be found in their accounts of the actual working of the modern division of labour and its negative effects on the individual. he suggests seeing class conflict as a side-effect of the pace with which the transition was unfolding. modern societies seek to restore the ‘deviant’ to a normal way of life. Thus. Rather. Durkheim also shows a profound dissatisfaction with the account of the division of labour supplied by political economy. he devotes the first chapter of the second book of the Division of labour to the refutation of a utilitarian account of social change.

‘The remedy for the ill is nevertheless not to seek to revive traditions and practices that no longer correspond to present-day social conditions. 'the fact that the working classes do not really desire the status assigned to them and too often accept it only under constraint and force. highly differentiated social system. (1984: 339). If solidarity is to be maintained at all in the latter case. this imposition of status goes together with two further constraints: the regimentation of the worker and his physical separation from his social environment. but that the new world has not yet been born. and that social integration is achieved via the mutual dependencies that characterize a complex. Thus the morality corresponding to this type of society has lost influence. 1992). It is this kind of argument that lead Durkheim to be aligned with ‘functionalism’ in sociological thought. equivalent to that found in Marx's account of alienated labour [see Box 1]. Modern society must face the danger of anomie. whereas the latter yields moral void and social fragmentation. is distinguished from egotism: while egotism 'agitates and exasperates. For Durkheim. 'this malady of infiniteness which we suffer in our day' (1961: 43). there is no turning back. however. and the routinization of working practices that transforms the worker into ‘a lifeless cog. The speed of social change creates the danger that pre-modern (mechanical) solidarity might disappear before modern (organic) solidarity is fully in place. This kind of solidarity Durkheim calls ‘organic’ because a modern society. It should be noted. but without its successor developing quickly enough to occupy the space left vacant in our consciousness. Europe still lay at the point of transition between the pre-modern and the modern worlds. This is why he views the division of labour not so much as a means to class exploitation. and solve it in modern ways.’ anomie 'disorient and disconcerts' (1952: 382). if not dead. not having any means of gaining any other status' (1984: 293). Lockwood. Durkheim distinguishes between two abnormal forms of division of labour. that he was more sensitive to questions of conflict and schism in modern differentiated societies than are some of the later theorists who inherited the functionalist mantel. […] Over a very short space of time very profound changes have occurred in the structure of our societies. no nostalgia for the world we have lost. consists of ‘organs’ with distinct functions within a system in which the function of each organ is dependent upon the functioning of all the others. [see Box 4] Anomie. it can only be on the basis of the new mutual dependencies that a complex division of labour creates. and that could only subsist in a life that would be 12 . They have liberated themselves from the segmentary model with a speed and in proportions without precedent in history. But times of transition are also times of hazard.latter as ‘resititutive’ law.’ The combined effect of those constraints on the individual is. In large-scale industry. the former produce social conflict. for Durkheim. In Durkheim's writings there is a sense that the old world is dying. that is. but also for all those involved in the productive process and for society in general. Durkheim labels it anomie: a state of normlessness arising from social fragmentation and lack of authoritative social institutions capable of regulating social interaction. namely with the doctrine that societies are more than the mere sum of their parts. The Forced Division of Labour and Anomie Similarities between Durkheim and Marx can also be found in their accounts of the actual working of the modern division of labour and its negative effects on the individual. The first is the forced division of labour. It has rightly been stated that morality […] is in the throes of an appalling crisis. The second abnormal form analysed by Durkheim complements Marx's critique of capitalism. however. Durkheim stresses the role norms and moral discipline play in structuring individual action and developing a healthy personality. but as a source of social solidarity. for it shows that the division of labour has negative effects not only for the working classes. and who occasionally tend towards a somewhat Panglossian view (see. like a complex living organism.

but only that which is felt to be just and fair: (1984: 321). occupational groups must have. but without its successor developing quickly enough to occupy the space left vacant in our consciousness' (1984: 339). We need to introduce into their relationship a greater justice by diminishing those external inequalities that are the source of our ills’ (1984: 340). In Professional Ethics and Moral Education. Durkheim deals with the inter-groups anomie that affects the modern nation-state.’ namely the attempt to moderate the pathological side-effects of market societies though moral and political regulation the aim of which was to reinforce a sense of solidarity and inhibit the rabid individualism of homo economicus. To appreciate the nature of Durkheim's undertaking.. and a secular moral education system are three of the solutions he advocates. and secondly a well-defined constitutional role assuring them direct influence in public choice at the central level. The second question pertains to the institutional framework that can engender the value system suitable for modern society. To fulfil these roles. Durkheim views these occupationally-based social arrangements as inherently democratic. (ii) to mediate between the state and the individual. Box 4: Anomie Anomie represents a socio-psychological condition of normlessness due to the absence. and secular societies in general.artificial. Durkheim suggested the creation of institutions that could establish common goals and identities by reinforcing the channels of communication between individuals and the coordination of social roles and functions. of institutions and rules regulating social intercourse. They are not markets in which agents meet with anomic and competing preferences. Morality and Civil Society Durkheim viewed the division of labour as a source of solidarity which could offset the atomistic forces generated by an increasing pluralistic society that elects individualism as its highest moral value. but in analysing the form of solidarity that better suits modern society. End Box Individualism. We need to put a stop to this anomie and to find ways of harmonious cooperation between those organs that still clash discordantly together. Durkheim ascribed two key roles to these intermediary groups: (i) to educate us into recognizing interests that are prior to and more general than our own selfish interests. As a practical solution. 13 . he focuses instead on the microsociological effects resulting from anomie. we need to examine two related normative questions. The first concerns the identification of the value system required for an increasing differentiated and pluralistic modern society. Similarly. first a democratic internal structure allowing people direct participation in decision making at the local level. In Suicide. [. or weakness. In contrast to the medieval guilds or the fascist system of corporations. Occupation groups. he discusses anomie as a macrosociological. structural problem affecting economic relations: 'over a very short space of time very profound changes have occurred in the structure of our societies.. For him. there is only one kind of solidarity that can solve the anomic crisis: the organic solidarity that could be generated by an increased awareness and appreciation of the interdependence brought about by the division of labour. The various specific forms in which anomie affects modern society and the normative solutions that can reduce its pathological effects occupy Durkheim in all his major works. a corporatist state. Here he finds inspiration in that French mutualist tradition which Marx dismissed as ‘pettybourgeois socialism. not any kind of rule could establish the necessary restraints on individual passions and desires. establish direct lines of communication and form collective identities. a normative task that builds on his critique of contract theory and leads him towards a revised and sociologically sound understanding of individual rights. In the Division of Labour. Durkheim is not interested in social order or in regulation per se.] the morality corresponding to this type of society has lost influence. one only of appearance. They represent social spaces where people with common interests and concerns can gather together.

nearly achieved by now. for Durkheim. and ‘political society’ to the complex group of which the state is the highest organ' (1957: 48). that is. Hence. This leads us to the final feature of Durkheim's normative theory and to the main point of disagreement with both Marxist and much liberal thought: the role of the state. towards a state. but the emergence of intermediate association within civil society as the way of re-establishing the necessary state-society relation. so its values have to become more universal. Durkheim argues that the kind of critique of the 'Rights of Man and the Citizen' that Marx makes is based upon a confusion of two forms of individualism: the egotistic (utilitarian) and the universal (Kantian). It is not the particularistic individualism of the egotist that is celebrated in the Rights of Man. we must then treat it as the sacred source of social cohesion. but as bearers of particular group identities. Modern solidarity further requires a pluralistic social milieu in which we are addressed neither as universal humanity nor as self-interested egotists. This idea is fallacious because contracts generally rest upon conditions that are themselves moral. Individualism thus understood is the glorification not of the self. In what we now call 'multicultural societies' we cannot hope to find common agreement on the basis of any particularistic belief system. he differs from Marx in two vital respects: (a) he rejects latter's critique of rights in its implication that civil society is necessarily asocial. a wider pity for all suffering. but these are of necessity of a highly general nature. The State. (b) he views not the abolition of the state. Governance and Subsidiarity But with this appeal to proper individualism and rights. social solidarity and the rebinding of civil society is not yet fully secured. We cannot hold on to local (or eventually national) traditions in a context in which horizontal differentiation breaks down locality and particularistic values: 'we make our way. non-contractual. Durkheim is thus committed to a form of cosmopolitan universalism. a greater thirst for justice.1 While Durkheim shares Marx's fear that civil society may decay into the mutual antagonisms of self-seeking individuals. Its motive force is not egoism but sympathy for all that is human. The word ‘state’ for him is short for the set of institutions regulating a political society: 'we apply the term “state” more especially to the agents of the sovereign authority. Contracts must be respected. he maintains that regulation (just like society) is enabling rather than merely constraining. As society becomes more differentiated. for all human miseries. but we may – on Durkheim's universalist assumptions – hope to find agreement on matters that are the common property of all the component elements. the modern religion acting as the source of social solidarity under conditions in which religion in the conventional sense – as theism – no longer grips: 'not only is individualism not anarchical. but the clause that they must be so cannot be written into the contract without incurring an infinite regression problem. These are thus two of the main conclusions that set Durkheim's conception of the state apart from a standard liberal and 14 . Contracts are thus underwritten by the moral force of society: by trust and mutual respect. Durkheim views the state as the highest expression of social life within a linked multi-level system. less bound to territory and to tradition. but of the individual in general. but it henceforth is the only system of beliefs which can ensure the moral unity of the country' (1898: 50). but the individual as the universal embodiment of humanity. a more ardent desire to combat and alleviate them. little by little.Liberal Individualism and the Values of 1789 In contrast to Ferdinand Tönnies and Sir Henry Maine. Durkheim rejects the idea that modern society can be founded on contractual relations alone. where the members of a single social group will have nothing in common among themselves except their humanity' (1898: 51). (1898: 48) The cult of the individual – so long as the individual is understood as universal humanity – is. If the universal – our humanity as such – is all we have in common.

. The Elementary Forms in particular illustrates the complexity of Durkheim’s late work vis-à-vis the issue of identity [Box 5]. Durkheim is progressively led to search for systems of value and institutions that can promote the development of stable common identities and social bonds thus engendering organic solidarity. is the highest instance of a multi-level system of governance and acts as 'a special organ whose responsibility it is to work out certain representations which hold good for the collectivity' (1957: 50). but does not share the revolutionary conclusions the latter draws from this fact. including notably Max Weber – the former appears to underestimate the significance of social and cultural practices beyond the economic sphere. For him. the Marxist tradition has paid insufficient attention to the question 'who are we?'. This moral aspect of the state can also be seen in the educative role Durkheim ascribes to it. associations such as occupational groups).Marxist ones. namely its tendency to create of a society of individuals incapable of acknowledging their social selves. While in his earlier works Durkheim thought such a danger was restricted to the economic sector and had a somewhat temporary nature. Durkheim draws it in the direction of cultural anthropology. rather than economic class (see Cohen 1996). the state is inherently connected to a political society and cannot be abolished without at the same time undermining the political nature of society. This is a tendency that a great many of the twentieth-century Marxist theorists discussed in Chapter 8 sought to correct. he became increasingly concerned by the pervasive and structural nature of the problem. He thus implicitly acknowledges Marx’s view of conflict as endemic.] the state presupposes their existence' (1957: 45). and the plurality of such groupings feeding societal demands into the political process.e. In the absence of linking instances (i.. Durkheim envisages a form of 'subsidiarity' in which each level (individual. whose actions become increasingly meaningless and where the social conditions binding them slowly decay. Here the importance of collective beliefs and representations. Durkheim claims the state to be an agent whose duty is to call the individual to a ‘moral way of life' (1957: 75) and to 'oppose the sentiment of general utility and the need for organic equilibrium to the particularism of each corporation' (1952: 384).. state) is bound into a system via mutual education and circulation of information.A. 'far from being in opposition to the social group [. Intermediate association and the state must address the danger of the modern market-based division of labour. rational governance is difficult given the distance that then opens up between the state and the individual. Thus. He retained the key prejudice of political economy: the primacy of the economic over the social. First. It is in addressing this danger that intermediate associations find their contemporary significance: they supply the mechanism through which the state is bound to civil society. It also becomes evident that while Marx binds social theory to economics. Cohen has acknowledged. Secondly. 15 . group. Only an educated public respecting the sacred nature of univeralist individualism and negotiating their differences in the context of a multi-level and pluralistic political society can realize the principles of 1789 (Durkheim 1890). The state. Conclusion: Comparing Marx And Durkheim When we compare Marx's thought to that of Durkheim – or indeed to that of other classical social theorists. and of cultural practices becomes explicit. As the analytical Marxist philosopher G. civil society is more than Marx's realm of private competition. a question frequently answered in terms of nationality or religion. it includes groups who gather the interests of individuals into a higher instance. civil society and rights combines elements of both univeralist cosmopolitanism and of more particularistic associational democracy in which politics is understood as a necessarily pluralistic process of negotiation of group-specific concerns. The state depends on a civil society consisting of active citizens participating in and contributing to democratic pluralism. Summary Durkheim's view of the state. between state and society. on this view. This quest entails ‘refashioning of the moral constitution of society’ so as to recreate a healthy social milieu. This interest is notably reflected in his late work on religion [see Box 5].

reduce religion to ideology or to metaphysical nonsense. Marx and Durkheim arrive at radically different conclusions. He views religion as 'a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things. the latter would be no less rational or more mysterious than the former. Religious experiences and revolution are instances where this collective energy is mobilized. Heightened emotions become transferred to the religious images and collective representations which 'go on calling forth those emotions even after the assembly is over' (1995: 222). like Marx's. rather than technical. End Box Although their critical engagement with modernity has more in common than is frequently recognized. Religious beliefs engender a 'bipartite division of the universe' (1995: 38) into the sacred and the profane. that is to say. for Durkheim. work – he claims that 'it is unthinkable that systems of ideas like religions [. Hence. ’ Durkheim did not share either Marx’s trust in emancitarory powers of revolutionary action or his view of the Paris Commune as a model for a future communist organization of society. totems and the phratries not only define the group. In aboriginal societies small kinship groups are given the name of a totem (a plant or an animal). Whereas Marx thinks that the problems of capitalism are inherent within it.. but are also its source of cohesion and solidarity that is expressed through religious practice. but also its periodic rebirth. But for Durkheim the significance of these events also outlive their occasion. which is then often transmitted down the maternal or paternal line. The totem is 'first and foremost... Likewise. while Durkheim views it as a social. fact only loosely related to the issue of ownership and of wider significance that the capitalist-worker 16 . the two thinkers arrive at very different assessment of revolution as a means for social change.BOX 5: Durkheim on Religion Durkheim disputes those traditions of thought that. and. and can thus only be resolved within a post-capitalism order. As emblems or names. two worlds that 'are conceived of not only as separate but also as hostile and jealous rivals' (1995: 37). ritual and dress. and for many his greatest. a name [. and not just its birth.] an emblem' (1995: 108).. especially by those who identify Durkheim with conservatism. while larger communities have names that incorporate a number of totemic groups –‘phratries. Durkheim makes the case for the rationality of religion with reference to the totemism of Australian aboriginal and Native American religions. On the contrary.. Durkheim maintains that to seek to abolish the division of labour would be to escape from reality into either an idyllic past or a distant utopian future. the latter perceives it as a novel and effective source of solidarity. While the former views the division of labour as the means of enforcing a subtle and pervasive class exploitation.] could be mere fabrics of illusion' (1995: 66). In the Elementary Forms of Religious Life (of 1912) – his late. he perceives any revolutionary project the goal of which is a classless communist society as a self-defeating attempt to promote a form of solidarity apt for a type of society other than the modern one. The rationality of these ‘primitive’ religions ultimately lies in the function they perform for society. We are aware of our supra-individuality only under exceptional circumstance. all those who adhere to them' (1995: 44).] Man becomes something other than what he was' (1995: 213). While appreciating the force of ‘social currents’ and ‘collective representations. but it is precisely these (collective) occasions that shape our identity and lend our mundane existence meaning: 'the result of that heightened activity is a general stimulation of individual energies.. so an aborigine can have more than one totemic identity. This is in part because Marx systematically connects the capitalist division of labour to a specific system of ownership and extraction of surplus value. People live differently and more intensely than in normal times [. and sets to himself the remarkable goal of demonstrating not only that (contra Marx) religious phenomena are partially independent of material relations. What Durkheim is describing here is nothing less than the birth of religion and society in ecstatic collective experiences. but also that religious beliefs and rites are at the root of scientific thinking and practice. things set apart and forbidden – beliefs and practices which unite into one single and moral community called a Church.’ In the same way as one can today be both a British and an EU citizen. Durkheim identifies inherent tendencies both to selfdestruction and self-regeneration within modern capitalism (see Hirschman 1982).

Those more interested in Marx's philosophy should read some of the earlier writing. but were divided on fundamental questions of method. The next stage would be to consult one or more of the excellent selections of Marx's work. In the 1960s and 70s Louis Althusser – e. It would be self-deception to deny that the collapse of communism has derailed Marxist social thought. and the unimaginatively entitled ‘Chapter on Money’ from the Grundrisse makes a nice complement. have created conditions in which at least some aspects of Marx's analysis have acquired renewed relevance and validity. precisely because it is not a work of theory and is addressed to a wider audience. and within both – and the recommodification of labour power consequent on privatization and the partial withdrawal of the state from welfare functions. On secondary literature. has lost little of its relevance. Returning to the thought. But subsequent developments. More-or-less the opposite reading. the high point. 17 . for those seeking an account that ‘tells it straight. Almost the reverse was suggested by the Frankfurt School (Critical Theory) which highlighted the relevance of Marx's earlier works and attempted to connect them with Freud's psycho-analytical approach. and that only the mature works were of any scientific value. This is a tradition of Marx interpretation defended and developed further by Jürgen Habermas. and those approaching either author for the first time would be well advised to read some original material in order to get a sense of what Durkheim and Marx sought to achieve before turning to further secondary literature for guidance. None of these works are basic introductions. In the late 1970s and 1980s analytically trained philosophers – the so-called ‘analytical Marxists’ – brought a very different type of rigour to Marxism. Shlomo Avineri's The Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx remains an excellent discussion. see especially. others. but they have kept alive a tradition of debate within and beyond Marxism. are thematically arranged. of course.e. such as David McLellan's Karl Marx: Selected Writings. and the omnipresence of exploitation. G. particularly the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844. Karl Marx.relation. Many secondary works on Marx seek to impose a particular philosophical or methodological interpretation on them. though the Grundrisse is in some respects a more attractive – if also more chaotic – proposition. At the same time. For understanding Marxist terminology. Further Reading The literature on both thinkers is enormous. Durkheim’s appeal to morality ignores the brute facts of modern capitalism: ineradicable inequalities of power and economic resources. While for Durkheim Marx’s reading of class conflict and its eventual revolutionary overcoming rest on a mystic epistemology of the type advocated by social-Darwinians. Chapter One of Capital (‘The Commodity’) is a must. from Marx’s perspective. Elster's project was the audacious one of arguing that Marx's methodology could only be understood in terms of methodological individualism and rational choice theory – i. In the case of Marx.g. the very positions that Marx appeared to be arguing against! A similar view is taken – but with greater attention to Marxist economics – by John Roemer in Free to Lose. Some of these. Cohen's influential Karl Marx's Theory of History defended a strict functionalist reading of historical materialism. Durkheim's concern with the growing gap between the state and the individual – with the remoteness of decision-making from those affected – and his fear of the self-hollowing out of community by under-regulated markets. the Communist Manifesto is still a good starting point. in different respects and for different reasons. A somewhat racier account of Marx's turbulent life (carbuncles and all) can be found in the biography written by the journalist Francis Wheen. but cast in an equally analytical mode. such as Jon Elster's Karl Marx: a Reader. The smitten may then move on to the major economic writing of which Volume One of Capital is. Theory and Practice. in For Marx – and his followers tried to persuade us that Marx was a structuralist. Tom Bottomore et al (eds) A Dictionary of Marxist Thought is invaluable. are ordered chronologically.’ David McLellan's Karl Marx: His Life and Thought is excellent.A. Both Marx's and Durkheim's social theories possess a special urgency today. including growing inequality – both between the richer and poorer nations. was proposed by Jon Elster in Making Sense of Marx.

is ageing well. but The Elementary Forms is in many ways the most extraordinary work of all. who also provides an excellent introduction. in the article 'Rival Interpretations of Market Society. see P. 3. Palumbo and A. Durkheim's spirit has perhaps been more faithfully kept alive within cultural anthropology than in sociology. Halls (Rules and Division of Labour) and. The trinity: The Division of Labour. Also very useful are Gianfranco Poggi Durkheim and S.P. and E. Is religion anything more than the 'the opium of the people'? Is civil society merely a sphere of competing self-seeking individuals (Marx). The advice about starting with the originals applies equally to Durkheim. try to use the newer (and much better) translations by W. Of comparisons between Marx and Durkheim.) Durkheimian Sociology contains both useful accounts and applications of Durkheim's cultural analysis.itgo. http://www.relst. For current debates within Marxism. for the Elementary Forms. which also covers Weber. see Imprints and New Left Review. 2. Seminar Questions 1. Basnard (ed. Where possible.' For the national context and the impact of the Durkheimians on French social thought. 5. Durkheim's political concerns can be seen in his article 'Individualism and the Intellectuals. and the application of Marxist thought to the contemporary world. Of the myriad of other sites on Marx. It is a demanding but rewarding work that which seeks to develop rather than merely exposit their key concerns. How compatible are the accounts of the modern division of labour given by Marx and Durkheim? Where do they agree and where do they diverge? How does Durkheim’s concept of anomie differ from Marx’s concept of alienation? Compare and contrast Marx's and Durkheim's critique individualist explanations of social phenomena. Karen The Sociological Domain. Those who want to keep up with Durkheimian debate should keep an eye on the journal Durkheim Studies.marxists. Scott 'Weber. Emile Durkheim: Selected Writing and Durkheim on Politics and the State. or is it a necessary component of a democratic and pluralistic society (Durkheim)? 18 .Those interested in the tradition of historical work that has been inspired by Marx might want to read one or two of the classics of the British school of Marxist historians of which Christopher Hill's The Century of Revolution and Liberty Against the Law. Turner (ed. Anthony Giddens's Capitalism and Modern Social Theory. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class are fine examples.D.) Emile Durkheim: Sociologist and Moralist. Durkheim’s political sociology and his view of politics are also discussed in A. both edited by Anthony Giddens. are firstrate selections. Mike Gane and the contributors to his edited The economist Albert Hirschman. It contains many of the original works as well as debates.P. Durkheim and the sociology of the modern state. 4.anu. It is both comprehensive and reliable. David Lockwood's Solidarity and Schism is a much more sustained comparison focusing on the two thinkers' theory of the social order/ contains useful material and discussion. The Radical Sociology of Durkheim and Mauss.uiuc. Marx and Durkheim on the World-Wide-Web The most comprehensive site on Marx and Marxism is http://www.emiledurkheim.' offers additional insights into the theory of capitalism in which Durkheim’s analysis scores higher than Marx’s. The Rules of Sociological Method and Suicide is the core of Durkheim's writings on modernity and Also worth visiting are http://www. have made a case for interpreting Durkheim as a radical thinker.’ The standard intellectual biography is still Steven Lukes's groundbreaking Emile Durkheim: His Life and Here Jeffrey Alexander ( and http://durkheim. The more-or-less official Durkheim site is http://www.

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