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Through historical studies of some of the work of Montesquieu, Comte, Durkheim, Boas, Morgenthau, Aron and Bourdieu, Derek Robbins examines the changing and competing conceptualisations of the political and the social in the Western European intellectual tradition. He suggests that we are now experiencing a new ‘dissociation of sensibility’ in which political thought and its consequences in action have become divorced from social and cultural experience. Developing further the ideas of Bourdieu which he has presented in books and articles over the last twenty years, Robbins argues that we need to integrate the recognition of cultural difference with the practice of international politics by accepting that the ‘field’ of international political discourse is a social construct which is contingent on encounters between diverse cultures. ‘Everything is relative’ (Comte) and ‘everything is social’ (Bourdieu), not least international politics.

Durkheim: Post-Positivist Social Science and Politics
Durkheim: Post-Positivist Social Science and Politics
Émile Durkheim’s Formation

Durkheim was born in 1858, one year after the death of Comte, in Épinal in Lorraine. His father, grandfather and great-grandfather had been rabbis. Épinal was briefly occupied by the Germans during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870–1. After the Treaty of Frankfurt of May 1871, by which Alsace-Lorraine was ceded to the German empire, Épinal became a French border town. These two elements of his childhood suggest that Durkheim would early have been aware of the uncertainties of ethnic, religious, and national identity. He was educated at the local collège and then transferred to Paris in 1875 in order to prepare himself for entry to the École Normale Supérieure. He gained admission at the third attempt, in 1879. He arrived in ...

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