Emile Durkheim and his Sociology

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Author: Harry Alpert (1912-1977)

Year: 1939

Publisher: Columbia University Press

Place: New York


233 pages with bibliography and index. Octavo (8 3/4" x 6") issued in dark green cloth with gilt lettering to spine and embossed "Columbia University" insignia to front cover and ruled edges. Studies in History, Economics and Public Law Number 445. First edition.

Methodology is nice work if you can get it, but some people never get anything else. Durkheim, fortunately enough, was a far better researcher than he would ever have been had he remained true to his announced methodological intentions. The great merit of Alpert's book lies in its clear statement of what Durkheim said he was doing an what he actually did. There have been other studies of the great Frenchman which have failed to take these two contrasting aspects into account; here one thinks first of all of Gehlke's one-sided presentation which, for many American sociologists of the generation now in its fifties or sixties, was the first and final word. Gehlke mad much of "collective representations," "group mind," and similar flimsy cornices on the solid edifice of Drukheim's research. Alpert quite justifiably points out that when Durkheim's substantive studies rather than his methodological speculations are examined, Durkheim dealt with language and other symbolic systems mores, institutions and a host of other empirical data as the stuff in which "collective representations" and "group mind" are embodied. In other words, they are not brooding omnipresences in the sky, to take Justice Holmes out of context, but observable items making up the commonly accepted "human nature" of the members of a given society. At bottom, the, Durkheim is easily reconcilable with Mead, as Alpert shrewdly points out. Excellent as Alpert's analysis is, however, it is to be regretted that it was necessary to present it to American readers in the year 1939. What he says should have been common knowledge in 1920. But, vain regrets aside, we can be thankful that something like a just evaluation of Durkheim's achievements is now at our disposal; we need no longer rely on the comic-strip distortions that have previously held the field. Moreover, the Alpert study makes available a well-organized arrangement of biographical detail that is exceedingly helpful in disentangling the ideological and the solidly scientific phases of Durkheim's work. If a note of hero-worship is sometimes apparent, it can do no great harm in view of the more damaging biases to which it is opposed. Review by Howard Becker American Sociological Association 1944. (page 205)


Spine gilt faded, corners bumped, some shelf wear and rubbing to extremities else about a very good copy with out jacket.


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