Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) is considered the father of French sociology and ranks among the pioneers in the field, along with Karl Marx, Georg Simmel, and Max Weber. His contribution is remarkable in its breadth and focus, and even if (or because) his research is now considered the epitome of classical sociology, his works are widely read, commented upon, discussed, and quoted around the world today. This entry describes Durkheim’s contributions to sociology, particularly the sociology of religion, and concludes with a discussion of the critiques of his work and an assessment of his scholarly legacy.


Initially a supporter of Auguste Comte’s views on sociology as a positivist science (i.e., focused on objective knowledge) and inspired by Herbert Spencer’s organicist social science (i.e., society as a ...

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