Skip to content

DURKHEIM AND THE LAW: THE SACRED INDIVIDUAL

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook on Emile Durkheim
EditorsAndreas Pettenkofer
Publisher or commissioning bodyOxford University Press
DateAccepted/In press - 2019

Abstract

Emile Durkheim is known as the ‘father of Sociology’, or simply as ‘Mr Sociology’, because of his life’s work in consolidating the disciplinary features of Sociology. He set up a leading journal in the field named the L'Année sociologique, distinguished the research perimeters of Sociology from those of Psychology, and developed empirical methods and studies on what keeps societies together. In these ways, Durkheim’s work advanced a new way of studying human society by emphasising social facts which has now become well established in the social sciences. Apart from sociology, Durkheim steered the purposes and effects of criminology and deviance by connecting observable macro processes with the large questions in the field ( such as who commits crime and why, and why punish). Law is an important theme in Durkheim’s research; his scholarship is widely cited in law and society literature. He used law and legal data as observable facts in empirical studies and developed a conceptual understanding of legal evolution connected to modernity and individualism.

Despite Durkheim’s popularity in the law and social sciences, critics find a simplistic assumption of cause and effect in Durkheim’s work which has led to criticisms of positivism and functionalism (Black 1972:1091, 1094-95, 1098; Griffiths 1984:39). In his defense, scholars mention an earlier Durkheim and a later Durkheim (the so called ‘two Durkheim’ thesis) (Cotterrell 1977; Lukes 1973). According to this ‘two Durkheim’ thesis the later Durkheim is the complex and more mature scholar while his earlier works were less mature and more positivist in nature. While not all critics subscribe to this view, critics tend to agree that a general theory of power or a theory of the state is missing in Durkheim’s work. Cotterrell (2011: 17) writes, “Durkheim’s sociology of law has been criticized for its focus on law’s links to morality, rather than to power.”

Despite these lacunae, Durkheim’s work remains relevant to political sociology because of its focus on the emergence of new social relations at the onset of modernity. Not surprisingly, Durkheim’s account of law as well follows a similar trajectory of modernity and the transformation of social relations. In this paper, emulating his own approach of using law as an observable social fact in sociological analysis, I will use the specific example of cancellation of British citizenship as a counter-terrorism measure to demonstrate the links Durkheim sets out in his work between the individual, state and society.

Documents

Documents

  • DURKHEIM AND THE LAW July16

    Accepted author manuscript, 76 KB, Word document

    Request copy

View research connections

Related faculties, schools or groups