chapter  5
14 Pages

Emile Durkheim (1857–1917): Moral universalism and the normative ambiguity of the nation-state

In the same way as with the previous two chapters of this part on classical social theory, this one is devoted to draw some substantive lessons from Emile Durkheim’s work on the opacity of the nation-state in modernity. Durkheim’s interest in the life and fate of the French Third Republic was not only academic but also political. His politics remained nationalistic throughout his life and therefore an understanding of the relationship between Durkheim’s politics and scholarship must be one of this chapter’s aims. A strong normative claim to universalism – at the levels of individual autonomy, national self-determination and cosmopolitanism – was central in Durkheim’s approach to politics and it is this moral universalism that constitutes the core of his understanding of the normative ambiguity of the nation-state.