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Durkheim, the Durkheimians, and the Arts

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A volume in the Publications of the Durkheim Press series

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Durkheim, the Durkheimians, and the Arts

Edited by Alexander Tristan Riley, W.S.F. Pickering†, and William Watts Miller
Published in Association with the Durkheim Press

320 pages, 13 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-0-85745-917-6 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (August 2013)

ISBN  978-1-78533-209-8 $34.95/£27.95 Pb Published (May 2016)

eISBN 978-0-85745-918-3 eBook

Hb Pb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook! $34.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“The strengths of the book are the featuring of the diversity of the [Durkheim] tradition and the many lines linking broadly Durkheimian themes to current work on the arts… [It] illustrates powerfully how Durkheimian concepts live with us today and how we can benefit by comparisons with this rich tradition. Read and be inspired.” · American Journal of Sociology

“The triumvirate editors have put together an imaginative set of authors, representing different generations, who have already made important contributions to recent Durheimiana.” · Canadian Journal of Sociology/Cahiers canadiens de sociologie

“…offers readers a tour of twentieth-century French intellectual history by one of the finest Durkheimian scholars writing today. At the heart of the book is Durkheim’s concept of the sacred. Yet despite the seemingly familiar starting point, Riley’s book sparkles with creative ideas, intriguing concepts, and introductions to a broad class of characters. Riley is not a historian of ideas but a sociologist and social theorist. Consequently, he frames the telling of this history with key theoretical categories, which help order a broad range of material…Part of the book’s (mystic) charm is its comprehensive and suggestive nature.” · Sociology of Religion

“…an important volume of original thinking that will make a significant contribution, both to a new understanding of Durkheim/Durkheimianism and to the sociological understanding of art… The contributors are true, world-renowned experts in Durkheim and his school and his legacy.” · Jeff Alexander, Yale University

“The essays are uniformly intensely learned and clearly written, which is a real feat in a book involving so many people.” · Howie Becker, author of Outsiders and Art Worlds


Using a broad definition of the Durkheimian tradition, this book offers the first systematic attempt to explore the Durkheimians’ engagement with art. It focuses on both Durkheim and his contemporaries as well as later thinkers influenced by his work. The first five chapters consider Durkheim’s own exploration of art; the remaining six look at other Durkheimian thinkers, including Marcel Mauss, Henri Hubert, Maurice Halbwachs, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Michel Leiris, and Georges Bataille. The contributors—scholars from a range of theoretical orientations and disciplinary perspectives—are known for having already produced significant contributions to the study of Durkheim. This book will interest not only scholars of Durkheim and his tradition but also those concerned with aesthetic theory and the sociology and history of art.

Alexander Tristan Riley is Professor of Sociology at Bucknell University. With the aid of the late Philippe Besnard, he edited the war correspondence of Robert Hertz, Un ethnologue dans les tranchées. He is the author of Godless Intellectuals?: The Intellectual Pursuit of the Sacred Reinvented (Berghahn Books, 2010) and currently he is contemplating a book on literary autobiography, cultural sociology, and the writing of Michel Leiris.

William Watts Miller is editor of Durkheimian Studies/Etudes Durkheimiennes and a member of the board of the British Centre for Durkheimian Studies. He has published extensively in the field, collaborated in translations, and is a member of the team producing a new critical edition of Durkheim's Complete Works. His most recent book is A Durkheimian Quest: Solidarity and the Sacred (Berghahn Books, 2012).

W.S.F. Pickering taught sociology in Canada from 1958 to 1966 and then at Newcastle-upon-Tyne until he retired in 1987. Although his original interest was in the sociology of religion, he later turned to the work of Durkheim. In 1975 he published Durkheim on Religion (Routledge) and in 1984 Durkheim’s Sociology of Religion: Themes and Theories (Routledge). He also contributed to and helped produce other books on Durkheim and his followers. In 1991, he helped found the British Centre of Durkheimian Studies, of which he was the General Secretary.

Subject: Sociology Anthropology (General) Cultural Studies (General)


List of Illustrations

Alexander Riley

Chapter 1. Total Aesthetics: Art and The Elemental Forms
William Watts Miller

Chapter 2. Durkheim, the Arts, and the Moral Sword
W.S.F. Pickering

Chapter 3. Durkheim and Festivals: Art, Effervescence, and Institutions
Jean-Louis Fabiani

Chapter 4. The Power of Imagination and the Economy of Desire: Durkheim and Art
Pierre-Michel Menger

Chapter 5.  Dostoevsky in the Mirror of Durkheim
Donald A. Nielsen

Chapter 6. Durkheim, L’Année sociologique, and Art
Marcel Fournier

Chapter 7. Marcel Mauss on Art and Aesthetics: The Politics of Division, Isolation, and Totality
Michèle Richman           

Chapter 8.  Too Marvelous for Words...: Maurice Halbwachs, Kansas City Jazz, and the Language of Music
Sarah Daynes

Chapter 9. Total Art – The Influence of the Durkheim School on Claude Lévi-Strauss’s Reflections on Art and Classification
Stephan Moebius and Frithjof Nungesser

Chapter 10.  Sex, Death, the Other, and Art: The Search for Mythic Life in the Work of Michel Leiris
Alexander Riley

Chapter 11. Apophasis in Representation: Georges Bataille and the Aesthetics and Ethics of the Negative
S. Romi Mukherjee

Chapter 12. Acéphale/Parsifal: Georges Bataille contra Wagner
Claudine Frank

Notes on Contributors

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