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Transcript
Pacific Sociological Association
Collective Consciousness, Morphology, and Collective Representations: Durkheim's Sociology of
Knowledge, 1894-1900
Author(s): Dénes Némedi
Reviewed work(s):
Source: Sociological Perspectives, Vol. 38, No. 1, Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Émile
Durkheim's "The Rules of Sociological Method" (Spring, 1995), pp. 41-56
Published by: University of California Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1389261 .
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Persctives
Sociological
Copyright 01995 PacificSociologicalAssociation
Vol. 38, No. 1, pp. 41-56
ISSN0731-1214
COLLECTIVECONSCIOUSNESS,
MORPHOLOGY,AND COLLECTIVE
REPRESENTATIONS:
Durkheim's Sociology of Knowledge, 1894-1900
DENES NEMEDI
EOtvOsLorknd TudomAnyegyetem
ABSTRACT: Thispapergives
anovemiew
ideasconcerning
of Durkheim's
in thebroadsensein theperiodindicated
It showsthatthenotion
knowledge
andtheprinciple
consciousness
wasabandoned,
of morphological
of collective
determinism
was retained,largelyfor rhetoricalpurposes.Durkheim's
statements
attesttoa slowdriftawayfromtheconception
which
contradictory
dividessocietyintotwoparts,onedetermining
theother.It is shownthatthe
earlier
notionofcollective
Durkheim
conceptualizations.
representation
replaces
as constituting
a realmof socialfactscollective
considered
representations
thesocialsphereparexcellence.
Thenotionof collective
indeed,
representations
todemonstrate
theindependence
playeda crucialrolein Durkheim's
attempts
of sociology.
Method("TheRules")was written as part of an
Durkheim'sTheRulesof Sociological
extensive body of researchactivity.Durkheim'spublishedworks reflectonly parts
of his vast program.Whilehe was in Bordeaux(1887-1902),he investigatedsuicide,
family, crime, punishment, and religion, as he notes in the introduction to his
lectureson socialismin 1895(Durkheim1928:11).
He also gave lectureson education
and politics. We know only half of this work-much of it is lost forever. The
statements in TheRulesneed to be comparedand contrastedwith remarksmade
in these works. In this paper, I analyze three central ideas of the Durkheimian
sociology of knowledge (collective consciousness, morphology, and collective
representations)in this broadercontext of which TheRulesformsonly a minorpart.
In particular,I show how these ideas developed and were transformedafter the
publicationof TheTheDivisionof Laborin Society("TheDivision').The typology of
mechanicaland organicsolidaritydeveloped in the latterbook is well-known and
I will not present it here.
* Directall correspondenceto: D6nes N6medi E6tvts Lorind Tudominyegyetem,SzociologiaiIntezet,University
of Budapest,BudapestVII,PollackMihAlyt6r10,H-1446BudapestP.O.B.394,Hungary.
SOCIOLOGICAL
PERSPECIIVESVolume38, Number 1, 1995
42
COLLECTIVE
CONSCIOUSNESSAF EK 1893
It can be presumed that while writing TheDivision,Durkheimwas uneasy with
the original typology of mechanical solidarity (resulting from collective
consciousness)and organicsolidarity(resultingfromthe division of labor).He had
partially modified it by the time he completed the book, most overtly in the
Afterthe publicationof the The
concludingchapter(Durkheim[189311984:339-340).
Division,he abandoned the whole typology and it never appeared again in his
writings in a theoreticallysignificantway. The notion of collective consciousness
was modified, too, as Parsons pointed out (1949.320).It was not abandoned
completely, but as I will demonstrate, it was not subsequently used in a
theoreticallyprecise sense.
In TheRules,Durkheimdeclaresthat there are phenomena which are different
from organic ones, since they consist of representationsand actions (1982:52).'
Elsewherein the same text, he characterizescollectiveconsciousnessas the totality
of representationswhich are collectivein the sense that they arepresent in several
minds. He used "collectiveconsciousness"in this way in a famous note which
was subsequently invoked by those who saw in Durkheima theoreticianof the
group mind:
In this senseandforthesereasonswe canspeakof a collectiveconsciousness
distinctfromindividualconsciousnesses.
Tojustifythisdistinctionthereis no
need to hypostatisethe collectiveconsciousness;
it is somethingspecialand
must be designatedby a specialterm, simply becausethe states which
constitute it differ specificallyfrom those which make up individual
consciousnesses.
Thisspecificityarisesbecausethey arenot formedfromthe
same elements.(1982:145)2
This is a decisive departurefrom the use of the term in TheDivision.As it is used
here, "collectiveconsciousness"is not a specificmode of integration(opposed to
the division of labor,as it was in TheDivision),but a generalcondition of society.
This concept of collective consciousness reappeared again and again in
Durkheim'swritings of the 1990s.The most detailed explicationcan be found in
the first chapterof Book Imof Suicide,where Durkheimconsiders methodological
questions.Here, he speaks of society as "a psychical existence of a new species"3
which has "its own manner of thinking and feeling"([1897]1951:310)4
and which
is "essentially ... made up of representations"([1897]1951:312).5
In the course of
the slow change in Durkheim'sthought, religion acquireda paramountposition
and the new concept of "collectiveconsciousness"was developed in accordance
with the new role of religion as a centralexample.As Durkheimsays, "Religion
is in a word the system of symbols by means of which society becomes conscious
of itself; it is the characteristic way of thinking of collective existence"
([1897]1951:316).6
The "socialbeing"has a certainexteriorityin its relationsto the individualsand
materializesin things-in independent realities-and it shows itself in the free
andColUctieReptsentations
in Durkheim
Coecte Consciousness,
Morphology,
43
currents of collective life (Durkheim [1897]1991:355).Exteriority means that "there
is not one of all the single centersof consciousnesswho makeup thegreatbodyof the nation,
to whom the collectivecurrentis not almostwholly exterior,since each containsonly a spark
of i't ([1897]1951:316).7This formulation is obviously diffetent from the one
contained in The Division. There, "collective consciousness," in the case of
mechanical solidarity, meant that there was a set of elements which was present
in each individual consciousness. Here, the only critetion of collectiveness which
Durkheim thought to be important was that the element should not be bound
to only one particular consciousness. The implication of this drawn in the preceding
quotation was that no particular individual consciousness could comprise the
totality of the "collective current."8
Durkheim uses several related terms to denote "collective" phenomena. Some
of them are terms which have a broader meaning with no specific reference to
psychic processes or consciousness (e.g., "social current," "collective tendencies,"
"social or collective being") but which are used by him in a context implying this;
some of them, however ("social consciousness," "common consciousness,"
"collective representations") make explicit reference to the psychic. This
terminological indeteiminacy suggests that Durkheimabandonedthe specifictheoryof
the collectiveconsciousness,but retained,as a generalmethodological
principle,thatideasform
social
the
context.
partof
THE PRINCIPLE OF MORPHOLOGICAL DE''EKMINATION AFI'EK 1893
In The Division, Durkheim supposed that there was a general morphological or
socio-ecological determination of ideas. In its general form, the thesis was rather
difficult to maintain. The overall theory supposed that a belief system (collective
consciousness) and a particular morphological constellation (division of labor) were
functional alternatives. It was difficult, however, to understand how two orders
of phenomena could provide alternativemechanisms of integration, if one of them
was determinedcausallyby the other.However, the incompatibility of the causal and
functional principles did not disturb Durkheim very much in TheDivision.And since
the book is not very tightly organized, the problem is not obvious. The message
the book conveyed was Durkheim's commitment to a deterministic approach to
consciousness:
Most of our states of consciousness would not have occurred among men
isolated form one another and would have occurred completely differently
among people grouped together in a differentway. Thus they derive not from
the psychologicalnature of man generally,but from the way in which men,
once they associate together, exert a reciprocal effect upon one another,
accordingto their number and proximity.Products
of thelifeof thegroup,it is the
natureof thegroupalonethatcanexplainthestatesof consciousness
([1893]1984:287,
emphasisin original)9
44
SOCIOLOGICAL
PERSPECTIVESVolume38, Number 1, 1995
The disapearanceof the central tenets of TheDivision,the models of mechanical
and organicsolidarity,opened up the possibility of developing a detailed theory
of morphologicaldeterminism.Yet, Durkheimdid not exploit this possibility,in
largepartbecause it was incompatiblewith some othertheoreticalchanges he had
made in the meantimethat gave rise to a fundamentalconflict.
In The Rules, Durkheim stressed that society consists of representations.
Durkheim'sgeneral theoreticalorientationled him to reject any position which
would isolate the representationsfromother things,which would makea separate
world (unmondea part)of them (1898-99:420).
Separatingsome socialelements,and
them
as
the
considering
conditioning "morphological"sphere, was incompatible
with this idea. A consistent morphologicaldeterminismalong these lines would
lead to a "two world theory"-as representedby the later Germansociology of
knowledge.10But, if society consists of representations,if representationsare the
only "world,"so to speak, it is difficultto say what is cause and what is effect.
Durkheimproduced many confusing statements and dubious formulationsas
a consequence of, and in the course of, his slow resolutionof the conflictbetween
the principleof morphologicaldeterminismand his emergingconceptionof social
life as made of representations.In TheRules,for example, he says: "Collective
representations,emotions and tendencies have not as their causes certain states
of consciousness of individuals,but the conditions under which the body social
as a whole exists"(1982:131)."
Takenout of context,this seems to be a clearformula
for morphological determinism: the body is the morphological stuff, the
representationsare caused by its "conditions."But the largerargumentin which
the statement appears was a justificationof his anti-individualistmethodology.
And in this argument,the "conditionsof the social body" to which he refersare
not a distinct sphere of morphologicalfacts but ratherthe totality of antecedent
collective states which generated the present constellation, which include
representations.
The same confusionreappearedin his lectureson socialism,at the point at which
he justified his interest in socialist conceptions whose scientific and theoretical
value he doubted. He saw two reasons to study socialism."First,one can hope
that it will aid us in understandingthe social conditionswhich gave rise to it. For
precisely because it derives from certain conditions, socialism manifests and
expresses them in its own way, and thereby gives us another means of viewing
them" ([192811962:42).
On the other hand, if one wishes to dispute the socialist
doctrine, "socialism must not be considered in the abstract, outside of every
conditionof time and place.On the contrary,it is necessaryto relateit to the social
In these quotations,there are two
setting in which it was borne"([1928]1962:44).
distinctconceptionsof the relationshipof ideas and socialstates. On the one hand,
Durkheimsupposed that there is a causalrelationshipsuch that one can inferthe
causes (socialconditions)fromthe effects (socialistdoctrines).On the other hand,
he saw an expressiverelationshipbetween the two. It was never explainedin detail,
however, how certain socialist ideas expressed concrete conditions (cf. Filloux
1977:301).
andCollective
in Durkheim
Collective
Consciousness,
Morphology,
Representations
45
As I have noted, the idea of morphological determinism was gradually softened
and its use was reduced to rhetorical purposes. The resulting generality and
indeterminacy makes it difficult to discuss its theoretical content (cf. Birnbaum
1%9:7-9).Durkheim did not bother to clarify the issue-his interest was elsewhere.
But there were two occasions where he felt it important to state his position. His
statements, however, are seemingly contradictory.
The first occasion was in a review of Labriola. That was one of the rare cases
in which he openly confronted Marxist positions.12 Labriola had also developed
a morphological determinist theory, and Durkheim believed that he had to
distinguish his position from Labriola's. He also saw that his own sociological
determinism could be confused with some Marxian ideas. He explained his own
view as follows:
We believe it a fruitful idea that social life must be explained not by the
conception of it formed by those who participatein it, but by the profound
causes which escape their consciousness.We also thinkthat these causes must
be sought mainly in the way in which individuals associating together are
formedin groups. (1982:171)'1
However, he added, the Marxian scheme of basis/superstructure was unacceptable
to him, and he explained why: "we know of no means of reducing religion to
economics" (1982:173).14
Yet only two years later, he wrote an introductory note to the subsection
"morphologiesociale"in the Annie sociologiquein which he developed a conception
which was, at first sight, very close to the ideas of Labriola's he had previously
criticized:
Sociallife rests upon a substratumdeterminatein both size and form.It is made
up of the mass of individualswho constitutesociety,the mannerin which they
have settled upon the earth, the nature and configurationof those things of
all kinds which affect collective relationships.... On the other hand, the
constitution of this substratum directly or indirectly affects all social
phenomena,just as all psychologicalphenomenaare linked eitherobliquelyor
immediatelyto the conditionof the brain.(1982:241)"5
But there are at least two ways in which Durkheim's position is profoundly different
from the Marxist theory as well as from the "classical" German sociology of
knowledge. On the one hand, Durkheim says nothing about the specific nature
of the social phenomena which are affected by the "substratum." The term itself
is vague: it is very likely that everything except the demographic characteristics
and spatial distribution of the population should be included under the social
phenomena. There is at least a vague hint that consciousness and "knowledge"
elements form an important part of the substratum. The dividing line between two
parts, substratum and social phenomena, does not separate consciousness from
46
SOCIOLOGICAL
PERSPECTIVESVolume38, Number 1,1995
the "material"aspects of society. Accordingto Durkheim,the two could not be
separated,and,therefore,he did not believe that there could be a purely "material"
substratumdetermining a purely "ideal"sphere of consciousness. His research
remained free from this kind of dualism. On the other hand, the notion of
"substratum"is very vaguely defined, and it is questionablewhether Durkheim
was thinkingof morphologicalfacts as social facts (see Alexander1982:253-4).
The
last sentence in the quotation above, which states that the relationshipbetween
morphologicalphenomena and social life is similar to that of brain and mind,
formulates a thesis which I discuss in the next section. However, note that
Durkheim,by analogicalargument,excludes morphologicalphenomena fromthe
social domain.
The incompatibilityof the principleof morphologicaldeterminism(which was
in any case never examinedin detailby Durkheim)with the thesis that everything
in society is made up of representationswas never discussed explicitly.But the
conflictwas, in a fashion,resolved:the principleof morphologicaldeterminismwas
slowly weakened, but not abandoned altogether.Unfortunately,the documentation of this slow drift is hindered by the superficialsimilarity of the idea of
morphological determinism to the characteristic Durkhpimian tenet of the
autonomy of social facts. Because Durkheimwas on only one occasion directly
confronted with a theory which fervently afirmed the idea of morphological
determinismin its "materialist"
form,he did not feel a need to develop his position
in detail16
Subsequent commentaryon the principlehas inadvertentlydistorted matters
in anotherway. Durkheim'scommentatorsin the 1970sand 1980swere very much
preoccupiedwith relatinghis ideas to those of the many Marxismsand therefore
overlookedthe historicalspecificityor context of his arguments.In the 1890s,when
Durkheimwas speaking of consciousness and knowledge,his main insights were
formulated not in terms of collective consciousness or of morphological
determinismbut in terms of collectiverepresentations.
THE PROBLEMOF REPRESENTATIONS
The word "representation"occurs frequentlyin the writings of Durkheim.In the
1890s,he used the term "collectiverepresentations"more and more frequentlyas
a scientificconcept.The development of his ideas about collectiverepresentations
was very importantto the theoreticalreorientationwhich led to his ethnological
was accepted in French vernacular
studies of religion.The word "reprsentation"
and philosophicallanguage. Littr6(1968,6:1379-1381)distinguishes 13 meanings
of it. In the present context, two of them are important:the "active"moment of
and the "result"of representation(image),
which
representation(actionderepresenter)
are also distinguished in Lalande'svocabulary (actede se reprenterquelquechose
It is believed that the philosophical
(1960:920-922).
againstcequiestpresenta l'esprit)
of
the
word
back
to
Leibniz
(who
usage
goes
complemented the traditional
=
= corerspondance").
"se
with
TheFrench
"reprsentation
meaning repreenter imaginer"
in Durkheim
andCollectieRepresentaions
Collective
Consciousness,
Morphology,
47
and the two terms were considered
term was translatedby Wolffas "Vorstellung"
as equivalent.17 Reprsentatinis a centralterm in Renouvier,Taine,and Hamelin.'8
The fact that Durkheim uses the word frequently is in no way specific or
significant.'9The curious double meaning of the word ("ambiguousassimilation
of the knowing instrument and the known thing";Bohannan1960:79cf. Lukes
1973:7)was not specificto Durkheim,either.
in an early book review (Durkheim
Durkheim used the word representation
but its use did not became frequent until after [1893]1984when
[1887]1975:161)
he came to the conclusionthat socialphenomena"aremade up of representations"
and representationsare to be regardedas social facts (Durkheim[1895]1988a:97)20
However, the conception in TheRuleswas ratherweak, even if the word was used
relativelyfrequently(Alexander1982:483).The first substantialdiscussion was in
Suicide(Durkheim[1897]1991:345
ff.) and the concept was later developed in an
independent essay (Durkheim[189811965).
Durkheim'sdetailedexplicationof the term"collectiverepresentation"coincides
with the disintegrationof the originalsense of "collectiveconsciousness"and with
The growing
the weakening of morphological determinism (Lukes 1973:229-230).21
importanceof the term "collectiverepresentation"allowed Durkheimto give a
more detailed and better organizedpicture of social thought than he was able to
do with the one-dimensional and crude concept of "collective consciousness"
The introductionand frequentuse of the termwas
1984:532-533).
(Beillevaire-Bensa
crucial for Durkheim.It helped him to avoid the dualism of materialfacts and
consciousness and the necessity of supposing a causal relationshipbetween the
two. Facts,which are consideredas "material"things in other theories,are "made
up" of representations according to Durkheim (and, on the other hand,
representationsare just as external and thing-like as so-called materialfacts, cf.
Turner 1983-84:52-53).22
The explication of the theory of collective representationwas connected to
Durkheim'srepeated effoits to demonstratethe right of sociology to the status of
autonomousscience.The essay, which is his most importantfromthis point of view,
dealsextensivelywith the psychologicaltheoryof representations-in fact,this part
of the essay is much longer than that devoted to collective-that is, socialrepresentations.This is highly symptomaticwith respect to Durkheim'saims:he
refetnedto psychologyevery time he needed an exampleof successfulemancipation
of science from philosophy and general speculation (e.g., [1895]1988a:122,
234).23
Here,the lengthy analysisof individualrepresentationshas the same function.
Durkheimdiscusses in great detail psychologicalepiphenomenalism,which by
this time was no longer alive in the form representedbybHuxley and Maudsley
but had reappearedin a modified version in Jamesand Rabier.He believes that
the memory and the faculty of associationcannot be understoodif one supposes,
as the epiphenomenalists do, that the mind is identical with the actual
physiological, nervous state ([1898]1965:2-23).This extended (and, in the
Durkheimian sense, dialectical) discussion comes to the conclusion that
psychologicalphenomena constitute an independent realmof reality:
48
SOCIOLOGICAL
PERSPECTIVESVolume38, Number 1,1995
Ifrepresentations,once they exist,continueto exist in themselveswithout their
existence being perpetually dependent upon the disposition of the neural
centres,if they have the power to reactdirectlyupon each otherand to combine
accordingto their own laws, they are then realitieswhich, while maintaining
an intimaterelationwith their substratum,are to a certainextent independent
of it (Durkheim[189811965:23).
Durkheim's reasoning here is analogical. He supposed that collective
representations were independent of the totality of individual minds in the same
way as the mind is independent of brain;if for this reason psychology was properly
considered to be independent of physiology, sociology should be independent of
psychology too:
The conceptionof the relationshipwhich unites the socialsubstratumand the
sociallife is at every point analogousto that which undeniablyexists between
the physiologicalsubstratumand the psychic life of individuals,if that is, one
is not going to deny the existenceof psychologyin the propersense of the word.
The same consequences should then follow on both sides. The independence,
the relative externalityof social facts in relationto individuals,is even more
immediatelyapparentthan is that of mentalfactsin relationto the cerebralcells
([18981965:34).
Durkheim was fond of saying in this context that the whole was more than the
sum of its parts (e.g.[1895]1988a:195).24
He does so here as well:
Representationallife cannotbe dividedamongand ascribedto particularneural
elements,since severalof these elements combinefor its generation;butit could
notexistwithoutthewholeformedby theirunion,just as thecollective
couldnotexist
withoutthewholeformedby theunionof individuals.
Neither the one nor the other
is made up of particularpartsthat can be attributedto the correspondingparts
of theirrespectivesubstrata([1898]1965:27-8,
emphasisin the original).
The analogy of the brain-mind relationship with the relationship of psychological
and social phenomena25 forced Durkheim to change the sense of the term
"substratum." Whereas earlier he regarded the substratum as belonging to the
social sphere, here he was led to declare that the totality of individuals and
individual representations (substratcollectif),which constitute the necessary basis
of social life, are outside of it. Of course, he was not speaking here of substratum
in the earlier, material sense-that is, of the soil, its characteristics, of population
and its territorial repartition. The real substratum of society is constituted by
individual representations. These are the preconditions of social life, which cannot
be explained by them:26
Also,while it is throughthe collectivesubstratumthatcollectivelifeis connected
to the rest of the world, collective life is not absorbed in it. It is at the same
andCollective
Collective
in Durkheim
Consciousness,
Morphology,
Representations
49
time dependent on and distinct from it, as is the function of the organ.
(Durkheim[1898]1965:30)
In this essay, Durkheim gave an extra-social interpretation to the term
"substratum." He conceived it as the totality of individuals who have body and
mind, but without taking into consideration the social bonds which unite them.
This step was necessary to insist on the change in meaning of "collective
representations" (see above). As these latter constitute the specific social element
which has a peculiar and autonomous mode of movement, it was important to
reduce everything which did not belong to them to the status of mere preconditions
of society:
[T]hebasicmatterof the socialconsciousnessis in close relationwith the number
of socialelementsand the way in which they aregroupedand distributed,etc.that is to say, with the nature of the substratum.But once a basic number of
representationshas thus been created,they become,for the reasons which we
have explained,partiallyautonomousrealitieswith their own way of life.They
have the power to attractand repeleach otherand to formamongstthemselves
various syntheses, which are determinedby their naturalaffinitiesand not by
the condition of their matrix[I'tat du milieuau sein duquelellesevoluent].As a
consequence,the new representationsborn of these syntheses have the same
nature;they are immediatelycaused by other collective representationsand
not by this or that characteristicof the social structure([1898]1965:30-31).
This conclusion implies that collective representations constitute the most
important class of things which should be analyzed by sociology. Durkheim
considers representations as things in the most exact sense of the word.
In chapter one of Book III of Suicide(a chapter where the basic ideas of the 1898
essay were already formulated), he refutes those who take collective tendencies
or passions (which are here related to representations) only metaphorically (or in
a nominalistic sense). These are, he repeats, really things:
things sui generisand not mereverbalentitiesthat they may be measured,their
relative sizes compared,as is done with the intensity of electric currents or
luminousfoci ([1897]1951:310).27
Collective representations should be investigated in a naturalistic manner-that
was Durkheim's intention. This implies that he did not conceive them as the
utterances of a gigantic collective subject-even if he sometimes used metaphors
which were ambiguous in this respect.
Durkheim's research intentions are clearly stated in the second foreword to the
The Rules in 1901. There, he defended the thesis that society, while it is made up
of representations, conserves its externality to the individuals, and the thesis that
its laws are different from the laws of psychology:
50
SOCIOLOGICAL
PERSPECTIVESVolume38, Number 1,1995
Whatshould be done is to investigate,by comparingmythicalthemes,legends
and populartraditions,and languages,howsocialreprsentations
areattracted
to or
exclude
eachother,amalgamate
withoraredistinguishable
fromeachother,etc. (1982:4142, emphasisadded).8
Durkheim conceived the research in the laws of motion of collective representation
in a classical positivist manner. This conception still dominated the 1898 essay and,
in a lesser extent, the 1901 Second edition preface as well. Basic to this research
and to this shift of emphasis was the idea that collective representations constitute
a specific domain, they are independent beings and not just the epiphenomena
of other, more real beings.
Durkheim's mode of expression reflects this conception. He uses abundantly
expressions taken over from physics: attraction, repulsion, natural affinity, causal
relations, fusion, and differentiation. However, around the turn of century, he was
drifting toward a less physicalist conception of research as exemplified in his first
ethnological papers (cf. Durkheim [1898]1969b):he came to conceive the structure
produced by the mutual connections of collective representations as a special kind
of grammar.
Durkheim always stressed that collective representations should be conceived
independently from the subjects who have them. There is no expressive
relationship between individual mind and collective representations. The latter are
not thoughts of individuals. However, Durkheim could not abandon totally the
idea that representations should be, in some sense, the thoughts of someone.
Formulations that could be found already in the The Rules reappeared again and
again: he perceived society as a new kind of mind, a group consciousness. Talking
of the sui generis reality of society which results from the combination of conscious
beings but cannot be reduced to individual minds, he added:
In orderto understandit as it is one must take the aggregatein its totalityinto
consideration.It is that which thinks,feels, wishes, even though it can neither
wish, feel, nor act except throughindividualminds. ([1898]1965:26)
He did not arrive at a comprehensive group mind theory, however, because he
considered collective representations to be at the same time something similar to
physical objects. Therefore, he did not need to produce a conception of society
which thinks and which has a will of its own.
His commitment to this "elements" model of the collective consciousness
appears early. In The Division, he conceived collective consciousness as the sum
of identical elements in individual consciousnesses-that is, he did not assume
that it is a colossal mind. The contradictory character of Durkheim's formulations
can be seen in Suicide,too, where the group mind analogy is interwoven with a
research program which postulates the similarity of collective representations to
physical objects. Here, he takes religious representations as the most typical
example of collective representations:
andCollective
in Durkheim
Collective
Consciousness,
Morphology,
Representations
51
The power thus imposed on his respect and become the objectof his adoration
is society, of which the gods were only the hypostaticform.Herethen is a great
group of states of mind which would not have originatedif individualstates
of consciousness had not combined,and which result fromthis union and are
to those which derive fromindividualnatures(1951:312).29
superadded
To these phrases suggesting a group mind theory, Durkheim added on the next
page:
Not only have we admittedthat socialstates differqualitativelyfromindividual
states, but that they are, in a certain sense, exteriorto individuals.Similarly,
we have not hesitated to compare this exteriorityto that of physical forces
([1897]1991:353)30
Durkheim's position here is the by-product of his scientific strategy. Psychology
was regarded by him as the example of successful institutionalization. Therefore,
sociology should follow the same route and should become an independent
science, in the same way. Two requirements follow from this strategy. The first
is that a specific object area should be defined;31the second is that sociology's
achievements should be comparable to those of psychology. The replacement of
the category of mind with that of society was an obvious solution to these demands.
As society and mind had similar categorical positions, it was but a small step to
suppose something which is indeed similar to "group mind."
But, as suggested earlier, Durkheim's research logic was more compatible with
the idea that collective representations are quasi-physical thing-like objects than
with the conception of society as a gigantic subject. Fortunately, he followed the
first approach in his ethnological studies. As indicated earlier, this intensive
research resulted in a less physicalist conception of representations. But Durkheim
did not revive the "group mind" motif of his earlier writings. In fact, the naturalistic
conception of representations was a step toward the famous theoriesociologiquede
la connaissancewhich was Durkheim's final achievement in The ElementaryFormsof
ReligiousLife.
NOTES
1. "... puisqu'ilsconsistenten repr6sentationset en actions"(Durkheim[1895]1988a:97).
2. "Voila dans quel sense et pour quelle raisons on peut et on doit parler d'une
consciencecollectivedistinctedes consciencesindividuelles.Pourjustifiercette distinction,
il n'est pas n6cessaired'hypostasierla premiere;elle est quelque chose de sp6cialet doit
etredesign6eparun termesp6cial,simplementparceque les 6tatsqui la constituentdifferent
specifiquementde ceux qui constituent les consciences particuli6res.Cette sp6cificit6leur
vient de ce qu'ilsne sont pas form6sdes memes 616ments"(Durkheim[1895]1988a:196).
3. "un etre psychique d'une esplce nouvelle"([1897]1991:350).
4. "sa maniereproprede penser et de sentir"(Durkheim1897a:350).
52
SOCIOLOGICAL
PERSPECTIVESVolume38, Number 1, 1995
5. "... est essentiellementfaitede repr6sentations'(Durkheim
Another
[1897]1991:352).
conciseformulationin the lectureson moraleducation:Mais la soci&t6,
ce n'est pas l'oeuvre
des individus qu'elle comprenda telle ou telle phase de l'histoire;ce n'est pas davantage
le sol qu'elle occupe;c'est, avant tout, un ensemble d'id6eset de sentiments,de certaines
mani6resde voir et de sentir, une certaine physionomie intellectuelleet morale qui est
distinctive du groupe tout entier. La soci6t6 est, avant tout, une conscience: c'est la
consciencede la collectivit6.C'estdonc cette consciencecollectivequ'ilfautfairepasserdans
l'amede l'enfant"(Durkheim[1925]1963:236).
6. "Lareligion,c'est,en dEfinitive,le syst6mede symbolesparlesquelsla soci6t6prend
a
conscience d'elle-m8me;c'est la mani,re de penser propre l'atre
collectif"(Durkheim
[1897]1991:352).
la grandemassedela nation,il n'enest
7. "Detouteslesconsciences
qui composent
particuli'res
en totalite,puisquechacune
aucuneparrapport
a laquellele courantcollectifne soitextrieurpresque
d'ellesn'encontient
(Durkheim[1897]1991:357,
emphasisin the original).
qu'uneparcelle"
8. Durkheim gives an important integrative role to this loosely defined "social or
collectiveconsciousness."Speakingof religiousgroups,he says that they arewell integrated
when religious belief is firm and well defined;there is an "opinioncommune"
(Durkheim
when people get their opinions ready-made([1897]1991:171).
[1897]1991:158)
9. The most importantcontinuous argument written in the spirit of morphological
determinism is the well-known chapter of The Divisionwhere Durkheim explains the
rationalizationand generalizationof ideas by changes in the social milieu (Durkheim
[189311984:229-233).
and their role in German
10. On the "two world theories" ('Zwei-Welten-Theorien')
sociology,see Lenk(1972).
11. "Lesrepr6sentations,les Emotions,les tendances collectives n'ont pas pour causes
g6n6ratricescertains6tatsde la consciencedes particuliers,mais les conditionsou se trouve
le corps social dans son ensemble"(Durkheim[1895]1988a:198).
12. Alexander(1982:250)overstatesthe issue when he says that Durkheimwas offering
a theoreticalalternativeto Marxism.That was not his intention. He did not know Marx
well and, therefore,it was not the Marxiantheory to which he opposed his general
conception.
13. "Nous croyons f6conde cette id6e que la vie sociale doit s'expliquer,non par la
conceptionque s'en fontceux qui y participent,maispardes causesprofondesqui 6chappent
i la conscience: et nous pensons aussi que ces causes doivent etre recherch6es
principalementdans la mani6re dont sont groupes les individus associ6s" (Durkheim
[1897]1969a:250).
14. "Nous ne connaissonsaucun moyende reduirela religion[which was, according to
Durkheimat that time, the most elementarysocial phenomenon]a l'economie"
(Durkheim
[1897]1969a:253).
15. "Lavie sociale repose sur un substratqui est d6termin6dans sa grandeurcomme
dans sa forme.Ce qui le constitue, c'est la masse des individus qui composent la soci6t6,
la mani6redont ils sont dispos6ssur le sol, la natureet la configurationdes choses de toute
sorte qui affectentles relationscollectives.... D'un autrecot6,la constitutionde ce substrat
affecte,directementou indirectementtous les ph6nom~nessociaux,de meme que tous les
ph6nom6nespsychiques sont en rapports,m6diatsou immediats,avec l'6tatdu cerveau"
(Durkheim[1899]1969c:181).
in Durkheim
andCollective
Collective
Consciousness,
Representations
Morphology,
53
16. Theconfusionwithin the Durkheimiangroupwas apparentin the article"Sociologie"
written by Paul Fauconnet and MarcelMauss (and certainly
in the GrandeEncyclopedie,
approvedby Durkheim).There,afterproducingcontradictorystatements on the status of
collective representations,they go on to formulateboth the rejectionand the affirmation
of the morphologicaldeterministthesis:"Rienn'est vain comme de se demandersi ce sont
les idees qui ont susciteles soci6t6sou si ce sont les societ6squi une fois formees,ont donne
And then: "Carles
naissanceaux idees collectives.Ce sont des ph6nom6nesinsEparables."
representationscollectives ne doivent pas etre conques comme se d6veloppant d'ellesmemes, en vertu d'une sorte de dialectiqueinterne.... Les opinions, les sentiments de la
collectivit6ne changent que si les 6tats sociaux dont ils dependent ont 6galementchang6"
(Fauconnet-Mauss1901:163).
17. It is obvious that in the Germanterm,the originallink to the sense of representation
as actingor speakingfor someone or something,on behalfof something (e.g.,the king who
representsin his person the immortalprincipleof royalpower) is lost.
18. Hamelin was Durkheim's friend and colleague in Bordeaux and wrote a very
delarepr6sentation.
Hegelianbook with the title Essaisurleselementsprincipaux
Representation
there is Begriff,
Idee,and Geistat the same time. On Hamelin'sand Durkheim'srelationship,
see Strenski(1989)and N6medi (1991).
19. One need not to suppose, as Mestrovic (1988)does, that it was Schopenhauer's
influencewhich inspiredDurkheimto use representation
(Vorstellung).
20. Durkheim,of course, did not believe that collective representationsare or should
be true representations. In The Rules, he separated knowledge as correct, scientific
(sociological)representationsfromrepresentationsas socialfacts.Hirst'sproblemis a false
problem:"In so far as it [i.e.,collective representation]is a mental phenomenon, an idea,
he faces the threatthat it is an illusion,a misrecognitionof the real.But since it is the order
of the realitself,the society-subjectcan only be a subjectwithout illusions,a subjectwhose
ideas are pure knowledge"(Hirst1975:100).
It is an exaggerationto suggest that Durkheim
consideredsociety as a huge subject.
21. As "collectiveconsciousness"and "collectiverepresentations"in an exacttheoretical
sense are not used by Durkheimat the same time, I find the common practiceof treating
them as meaning the same or something similarto be baseless.The resultingidentification
of the Durkheimiantermswith the modem conceptionof cultureis misleading,too. LaCapra,
for example, believes that "collective representation ... primarily refered ... to the shared
model or paradigmwhich functionedas a mode of explanationand justificationin society,
especiallyas the core of the consciencecollectivewhich he treatedin his moralphilosophy
as la morale"(LaCapra1972:266).Accordingto Nisbet, "collectiverepresentation... is but
a phrasefor what most of us call more commonlytraditions,codes, and themes in culture"
collective"
and "representations
collectives"
(Nisbet 1974:88).Filloux sees that "conscience
are
different;both areinsertedby him in his multilevelmodelof determination:"lesrepresentations
collectives
ne sontque le premier
de la conscience
dontles institutions
collective,
degred'objectivation
et le substratconstituent
lesautresdegres"(i.e.,in the sense that the substratumis "below"the
collectiverepresentations,collectiveconsciousnessis "above"them) (Filloux1977:115).
The
scheme is really ingenious, but it combines ideas and theories which were never adopted
by Durkheimin this combination.
22. Becauserepresentationsare thing-like,it cannotbe said that the socialworld,which
is of "ideal"characteraccordingto Durkheim,would be the emanationor "objectivation"
of a transcendentspirit or spiritualbeing. "Assurement,on ne sauraittrop le r6p6ter,tout
54
SOCIOLOGICAL
PERSPECTIVESVolume38, Number 1, 1995
ce qui est social consiste en repr6sentations, par cons6quent est un produit de
repr6sentations.Seulement, ce devenir des repr6sentationscollectives, qui est la matifre
memede la sociologie,neconsiste
ies fondamentales
pasdansuneralisationprogressedecertaines
qui, d'abordobscurcieset voil6es par des id6es adventices,s'en affranchiraient
peu Apeu
pour devenir de plus en plus compl6tement elles-mmnes.Si des 6tats nouveaux se
produisent,c'est,en grandepartie,parceque des 6tatsanciensse sont group6set combin6s"
(Durkheim[1898]1969b:100,
emphasisadded).
23. Durkheim'sproverbialanti-psychologismwas of a methodologicalkind. He never
questioned the scientific character of psychology, whereas he believed that classical
economics was essentially unscientific,"ideological"(Durkheim[1895]1988a:117
ff.).In his
lectureson moraleducation,he repeatedlyand positively referredto recent psychological
monographs-he did not do that very often on other occasions (Durkheim[1925]1963:114,
154,184,191).We must not forgetthat in his youth, he visited the psychologicallaboratory
of Wundtin Leipzigand had very positive impressionsof it.
24. As Durkheimhimselfsaid, he took this banalityfromComte and his own Professor
It was connectedto the statementthat
of Philosophy,EmileBoutroux(Durkheim1907:403).
the particularsciencesarebuilton those "below"but aredifferentand independentof them.
25. It reappearedin 1899in the note on socialmorphology(1982:241).
26. He warns his adversariesthat, if they do not accept the independenceof sociology,
they will be forced to abandon the independence of psychology, too. 'Those, then, who
accuse us of leaving social life in the air because we refuse to reduce it to the individual
mindhave not, perhaps,recognizedallthe consequencesof theirobjection.Ifit werejustified
it would apply just as well to the relations between mind and brain" (Durkheim
[1898]1965:28).
27. "Ellessont si bien des choses sui generis, et non des entit6s verbales,qu'on peut
leur grandeur relative, comme on fait pour l'intensit6de courants
les mesurer,comparer
emphasisadded).
l6ectriquesou de foyers lumineux"(Durkheim[1897]1991:349,
28. "Ce qu'il faudrait,c'est chercher,par la comparaisondes themes mythiques, des
sociales
l6gendes et des traditionspopulaires,des langues, de quellefaon les repr&sentations
s'appellentet s'excluent,fusionnentles unes dans les autresou se distinguent"(Durkheim
[1901]1988b:85,
emphasisadded).
29. "La puissance qui s'est ainsi impos6e A son [the individual's]respect et qui est
devenue l'objet de son adoration,c'est la soci6t6,dont les Dieux ne furent que la forme
hypostasi6e.La religion,c'est, en d6finitive,le systeme de symboles par lesquels la soci&t6
prendconscienced'elle-meme;c'est la manifrede penserpropre l'etrecollectif.VoilAdonc
un vaste ensemble d'6tats mentaux qui ne se searient pas produits si les consciences
particulieresne s'6taientpas unies, qui r6sultentde cette union et se sont surajout6sAceux
qui d6riventdes naturesindividuelles"(Durkheim1897a:352-353).
30. The Spaulding-Simpsonversion is misleading."Nous n'avons pas seulementadmis
que les 6tatssociauxdifferentqualitativementdes 6tatsindividuels,mais encorequ'ilssont,
en un certainsens, exterieursaux individus.Meme nous n'avons pas craintde comparer
cette ext6riorit6Acelle des forcesphysiques"([1897]1991:353).
31. In the introductory paragraphs to the essay on individual and collective
representations,Durkheimremarkedthat sociology should have a researcharea which is
independent of psychology-even if both investigate representations (Durkheim
[189811965:2).
andCollective
in Durkheim
Collective
Consciousness,
Morphology,
Representations
55
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