Rethinking Durkheim's Intellectual Development I: On 'Marxism' and the Anxiety of Being Misunderstood
AbstractIn this paper I offer a new interpretation of the development of Durkheim's thought. Rather than linear progress, Durkheim's scientific career presented a distinctive circularity. Although always interested in a 'structural' theory, from the beginning of his work Durkheim sought a structural theory which would decisively differ from the materialist emphasis on coercion. In the first part of his career, however, Durkheim was unable to conceptualise such subjective structure in a satisfactory way. As a result, in his early writings between 1885 and 1893, Durkheim's theorising was incredibly unstable. Starting from an idealism he moved eventually to a materialism. The Division of Labour (1893) contains within itself all these unstable solutions, and even by the time of its publication Durkheim indicated an intense dissatisfaction with the result. Over the next three years he rewrote his theory in a fundamentally subjectivist way. Although throughout this period theoretical issues per se were uppermost in Durkheim's mind, so was the critical reception of his work. I examine the social and intellectual context of Durkheim's France, particularly a series of little known reviews of his first works, to establish this critical milieu, and I demonstrate how sensitive Durkheim was to these criticisms in this decisive period of theoretical change.