Ivan Strenski debunks the common notion that there is anything "essentially" Jewish in Durkheim's work. Seeking the Durkheim inside the real world of Jews in France rather than the imagined Jewishness inside Durkheim himself, Strenski adopts a Durkheimian approach to understanding Durkheim's thought. In so doing he shows for the first time that Durkheim's sociology (especially his sociology of religion) took form in relation to the Jewish intellectual life of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century France.
Strenski begins each chapter by weighing particular claims (some anti-Semitic, some not) for the Jewishness of Durkheim's work. In each case Strenski overturns the claim while showing that it can nonetheless open up a fruitful inquiry into the relation of Durkheim to French Jewry. For example, Strenski shows that Durkheim's celebration of ritual had no innately Jewish source but derived crucially from work on Hinduism by the Jewish Indologist Sylvain Lévi, whose influence on Durkheim and his followers has never before been acknowledged.
In this demonstration of the link between philosophy of science and scientific practice, Warren Schmaus argues that Durkheim's philosophy is crucial to his sociology. Through a reinterpretation of the relation between Durkheim's major philosophical and sociological works, Schmaus argues that Durkheim's sociology is more than a collection of general observations about society—it reflects a richly constructed theory of the meanings and causes of social life.
Schmaus shows how Durkheim sought to make sociology more rigorous by introducing scientific methods of analysis and explanation into the study of society. Durkheim tried to reveal how implicit, commonly held beliefs actually govern people's lives. Through an original interpretation of Durkheim's landmark writings, Schmaus argues that Durkheim, in his empirical studies, refined both the methods of sociology and a theory about society's shared knowledge and practices.
This book opens a new window on the development of Durkheim's thought and demonstrates how a philosophy of science can inspire the rise of a new science.