Emile Durkheim on the Family is intended to bring attention to this classical sociologist’s work on the family. Durkheim’s writings in this area are little known, but the family was nevertheless one of his primary interests, the subject of an intended book that was never written. Durkheim’s ideas on the family appear only in scattered sources and a number of those sources have not been translated into English. Durkheim’s Sociology of the family has not heretofore been presented and analyzed holistically.

Studying the Family

Studying the family

The sociologist … must confront the social facts, forgetting all that he believed he knew about them, as if in the presence of an unknown.

Durkheim (1909a:285)1

What were the methods by which Durkheim studied the family? What were the purposes he saw as valid? This chapter explores Durkheim's methodological approaches to the study of the family: his use of the materials of ethnography, history, law, and demography. Reflections on method were an intrinsic part of Durkheim's critical response to others as well as central to his own teaching and writing. This methodological chapter thus connects with the evolutionary theory presented in the last chapter as well as to the substantive content of the chapters to come.

Durkheim's use of ethnographic data from ...

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