Although the purpose of Durkheim's study of sociology is to understand modern society and modern man Durkheim goes to the very early ages to study religious life because he believes that it is necessary to first study a simple form of religion and then extrapolate his findings to that of more complex religious life. He believes that historical analysis is the only way to study religious life. By studying how religions were formed and how they evolved we can determine what conditions were present at the time of its birth and what caused this particular religion to win out over other possible forms of religion. Durkheim says that "It was one of Descartes's principles that the first ring has a predominating place in the chain of scientific truths." (181). This means that the birth of a religion is the most important thing to study when scientifically examining modern religion and society. Durkheim proposes that one cannot simply try to compare modern complex religions in order to discover what is common to all forms of religion. He proposes that one must examine the primitive simplistic forms of religion found in "the lower societies."(183). He says that the less individuality, the closer the group, and similar environments all contribute to the commonalities of dissimilar modern religions. The simplicity of these groups promotes collective consciousness. Durkheim says that in primitive religions "That which is accessory or secondary, the development of luxury, has not yet come to hide the principal elements."(183). Everything is reduced to the bare bones of what is necessary to sustain religion. Without these principal elements, religion would not exist. These bare bones are the common elements which Durkheim says that we must first understand to be able to proceed in our understanding of modern complex religions. By looking at primitive societies we can understand that religion is not always about God. Primitive religions not only help us to strip away the extra meat of modern religions but they also help us to explain them. Because the facts are simpler in primitive religions, the connections between those facts are more easily seen and understood. The reasons that people use to justify their actions in primitive societies are closer to their actual motivations because they have not thought in depth about how to hide their motivations and make them seem purer. When simplistic religions are analyzed the essential ideas which dominate intellectual life (ideas of time, space, class, number, cause, substance, personality) are always found. These ideas come from religion. They are a part of religion. Durkheim says that by studying primitive religion we can understand that human society could not exist without the essential ideas that dominate intellectual life. In saying this he is saying that society cannot exist without religion because the essential ideas that dominate intellectual life come from religion and they are a part of religion. The two are inseparable. Life would not exist if it were not for the essential ideas that dominate intellectual life (e.g. religion).
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- Course Information, Odds & Ends (5)
- Fun Stuff to Help us Understand and Love Theory! (1)
- Lecture Slides (13)
- [1-25] Marx & Engels I: Alienation and Historical Materialism (3)
- [1-30] Marx & Engels II: History and Class Struggle (5)
- [2-01] Marx & Engels III: Capitalism and the Labor Process (9)
- [2-06] Durkheim I: Society and Social Facts (4)
- [2-08] Durkheim II: Solidarity and Modern Life (2)
- [2-13] Durkheim III: Collective Conscience, Egoism, Anomie (4)
- [2-15] Weber I: Method of Social Science (3)
- [2-20] Weber II: Bureaucracy and Politics (8)
- [2-22] Weber III: Religion and Rationality (4)
- [2-29] Self and Society: Mead, Simmel, Du Bois (5)
- [3-05] Critical Theory: Mannheim, Horkheimer & Adorno, Marcuse (4)
- [3-19] Micro-Sociology I: Schutz and Berger & Luckmann (5)
- [3-21] Micro-Sociology II: Goffman & Blumer (6)
- [3-28] Institutional Analysis: DiMaggio & Powell and Granovetter
- [4-02] Foucault I: Power, Discourse, and Knowledge
- [4-04] Foucault II: Disciplinary Control and Biopower
- [4-09] Anthony Giddens
- [4-11] Pierre Bourdieu I
- [4-16] Pierre Bourdieu II
- [4-18] Race, Gender, Difference I: Smith and Collins
- [4-23] Race, Gender, Difference II: Fanon and Patterson
- [4-25] Jurgen Habermas
- [4-30] (Post)Modernity I: Elias, Bauman, Latour
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This page contains a single entry by Kim Andrews published on February 11, 2012 6:54 PM.
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