Oct 2, 2014

Émile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life

[The] stimulating action of society is not felt in exceptional circumstances alone. There is virtually no instant of our lives in which a certain rush of energy fails to come to us from outside ourselves. In all kinds of acts that express the understanding, esteem, and affection of his neighbor, there is a lift that the man who does his duty feels, usually without being aware of it. But that lift sustains him; the feeling society has for him uplifts the feeling he has for himself. Because he is in moral harmony with his neighbor, he gains new confidence, courage, and boldness in action – quite like the man of faith who believes he feels the eyes of his god turned benevolently toward him. Thus is produced what amounts to a perpetual uplift of our moral being. (Durkheim [1912] 1995: 213)

You can read online the following edition of The Elementary Forms at Project Gutenberg: Durkheim, Émile. (1912) 1915. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. Translated by Joseph Ward Swain.  London: Allen & Unwin.
However, two other translations are strongly suggested:

Why we need to read and interpret (again) Durkheim? Because here we can find the gist of the sociological discourse, as Jeffrey Alexander incipit states…

On one thing most of Durkheim’s readers, past and present, have always agreed: he, like Marx, emphasizes social structure. Durkheim helped to create classical sociology because he located social forces “outside” the individual actor. But from this point on, theoretical agreement ends. The problem for Durkheim and his interpreters, just as for Marx and his interlocutors, is what does structure mean? How does structure hold individuals within its limits? Of what are these limits composed? If structure exists, somehow, outside of
the individual, can it act only in opposition to freedom?
The problematics of Durkheim interpretation, then, are precisely the ones around which Marxist inquiry has always revolved. The fundamental question has been how Durkheim stipulates the relation between structured and free action. People keep reading Durkheim, and arguing about him, to find out whether the determinateness of social structures must involve the sacrifice of autonomy and, conversely, whether insisting on human agency entails denying external control. How generations have understood Durkheim – and answered these theoretical questions through such interpretive understanding – has fundamentally shaped the pattern of sociological discourse. Debates over the meaning and path of Durkheim’s work are, inevitably, arguments about the most basic directions of sociological explanation and more general social thought.
Is there a fundamental conflict between Durkheimian and more materialist forms of sociology, whether Marxist, Weberian, organizational, or behaviorist? Many have contended there is not, and they have found not only occasional passages but large sections of Durkheim’s work to prove it. The present essay will engage in a meticulous reconstruction of Durkheim’s theoretical development, from his earliest writings to his maturity. This hermeneutic effort will demonstrate that these interpreters are mistaken. We will see that Durkheim reached his theoretical maturity after a prolonged, if confused, flirtation with materialist forms of structural theory, and eventually a fierce struggle against them.
- Alexander, Jeffrey C. 2005. "The inner development of Durkheim’s sociological theory: From early writings to maturity." The Cambridge Companion to Durkheim: 136-59.

Whoever wants to have a comprehensive and meticulous understanding of Durkheim’s thought should read the whole book:
Contributors: Jeffrey C. Alexander, Philip Smith, Marcel Fournier, Philippe Besnard, Robert Alun Jones, Randall Collins, Karen E. Fields, Robert N. Bellah, Chris Shilling, Roger Friedland, Alexander Riley, Edward Tiryakian, David B. Grusky, Gabriela Galescu, Zygmunt Baumann, Mark Cladis.
You can read and download for free the introduction to the book:
- Alexander, Jeffrey C. and Philip Smith. "Introduction: The New Durkheim": 1-37.
And here you can find two more free articles by Jeffrey Alexander…
- Alexander, Jeffrey C. 1986. "Rethinking Durkheim's Intellectual Development I: On 'Marxism'and the Anxiety of Being Misunderstood." International Sociology 1(1): 91-107.
- Alexander, Jeffrey C. 1986. “Rethinking Durkheim's Intellectual Development II: Workingout a Religious Sociology.” International Sociology, 1(2): 189-201.

Selected works by Durkheim
-      Division of Labor in Society. Translated by George Simpson. New York: Free Press, 1964 [1933].
-      Division of Labor in Society. Translated by W. D. Halls. Introduction by Lewis A. Coser. New York: Free Press, 1984.
-      Durkheim and the Law. Edited by Steven Lukes and Andrew Scull. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1983.
-      Durkheim on Politics and the State. Edited and with an introduction by Anthony Giddens. Translated by W. D. Halls. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1986.
-      Durkheim on Religion: A Selection of Readings with Bibliographies. Edited by W. S. F. Pickering. Translated by Jacqueline Redding and W. S. F. Pickering. Boston, MA: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1975.
-      Durkheim: Essays on Morals and Education. Edited and with introductions by W. S. F. Pickering. Translated by H. I. Sutcliffe. Boston, MA: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979.
-      Durkheim’s Philosophy Lectures. Edited by Neil Gross. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
-      Education and Sociology. Translated and with an introduction by Sherwood D. Fox. Foreword by Talcott Parsons. Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1956.
-      Émile Durkheim on Morality and Society: Selected Writings. Edited and with an introduction by Robert N. Bellah. Chicago: University of Chicago Press,1973.
-      Émile Durkheim: Contributions to L’Anne´e sociologique. Edited by Yash Nandan. New York: Free Press, 1980.
-      Émile Durkheim: Selected Writings. Edited, translated, and with an introduction by Anthony Giddens. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972.
-      Ethics and the Sociology of Morals. Translated and with an introduction by Robert T. Hall. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1993.
-      Evolution of Educational Thought: Lectures on the Formation and Development of Secondary Education in France. Translated by Peter Collins. Boston, MA: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977.
-      Incest: The Nature and Origin of the Taboo. Translated and with an introduction by Edward Sagarin. Together with “The Origins and the Development of the Incest Taboo” by Albert Ellis. New York: L. Stuart, 1963.
-      Montesquieu and Rousseau: Forerunners of Sociology. Foreword by Henri Peyre. With “Durkheim, Montesquieu, and Rousseau,” by Georges Davy and “Note,” by A. Cuvillier. Translated by Ralph Manheim. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1960.
-      Moral Education: A Study in the Theory and Application of the Sociology of Education. Foreword by Paul Fauconnet. Translated by Everett K.Wilson and Herman Schnurer. Edited and with a new introduction by Everett K. Wilson. New York: Free Press, [1961] 1973.
-      Pragmatism and Sociology. Translated by J. C. Whitehouse. Edited and with an introduction by John B. Allcock and a preface by A. Cuvillier. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983.
-      Primitive Classification (with Marcel Mauss). Translated and edited with an introduction by Rodney Needham. London: Cohen and West, 1963.
-      Professional Ethics and Civic Morals. Translated by Cornelia Brookfield. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1957.
-      The Radical Sociology of Durkheim and Mauss. Edited by Mike Gane. London: Routledge, 1992.
-      Readings from Émile Durkheim. Edited by Kenneth Thompson with new translations by Margaret A. Thompson. New York: Tavistock Publications, 1985.
-      Rules of Sociological Method and Selected Texts on Sociology and its Method. Edited and with an introduction by Steven Lukes. Translated by W. D. Halls. London: Macmillan Press, 1982.
-      Rules of Sociological Method. New York: Free Press, 1966.
-      Socialism and Saint-Simon. Edited and with an introduction by Alvin W. Gouldner. Translated by Charlotte Sattler from the version originally edited by Marcel Mauss. Yellow Springs, OH: Antioch Press, 1958.
-      Sociology and Philosophy. Translated by D. F. Pocock and with an introduction by J. G. Peristiany. Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1953.
-      Suicide: A Study in Sociology. Translated by John A. Spaulding and George Simpson. Edited and with an introduction by George Simpson. New York: Free Press, [1951] 1966.
-      Textes. Vol. 1, Eléments d’une théorie sociale. Edited byVictorKarady. Paris: Editions de Minuit [1889] 1975.
-      Textes. Vol. 2, Religion, morale, anomie. Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 1975.