This new volume of the SAGE Social Thinkers series provides a concise introduction to the work, life, and influences of Émile Durkheim, one of the informal “holy trinity” of sociology's founding thinkers, along with Weber and Marx. The author shows that Durkheim's perspective is arguably the most properly sociological of the three. He thought through the nature of society, culture, and the complex relationship of the individual to the collective in a manner more concentrated and thorough than any of his contemporaries during the period when sociology was emerging as a discipline.
The amount written on Durkheim's work is voluminous, not only because of his status in the discipline but also simply because we are now almost a century from his death in 1917 and commentators have had a long time to write. Important functionalist strands in both mid-20th-century American sociology (in the work of Talcott Parsons and Robert Merton) and British anthropology (E. E. Evans-Pritchard and A. R. Radcliffe-Brown) were hugely indebted to his work, though they picked and chose among his ideas. Although functionalism is, despite the contentions of some of its critics, not dead, much of the early interpretive effort with respect to Durkheim's work has been left behind by a wave of new scholarship that began roughly 30 to 35 ...