chapter  1
24 Pages

Lasting Things: Durkheim as a Founding Father of the Sociology of Culture

Durkheim created to account for the beliefs that native peoples have in their totems, and the actual power that totems have over them. Durkheim's theory of emblems is a case in point: some cultural objects do not draw their power from within themselves but from the collective they symbolise. Durkheim laid the foundations for the sociological discourses which apply his ethnological hypotheses to the modern world. Durkheim's model is misleadingly enlightening, since it solves the problems of mediation by turning the social into a natural cause. Although the verbal paradox sounds striking, this is a weak theory of mediation. Durkheim empties the world of its objects to fill it in a mutually exclusive manner either with signs or with things, making his theory the least mediating of mediation theories. Levi-Strauss's structuralism and Durkheim's sociologic discourse agree with the exteriority and the generality of scientific explanations, and refuse to allow the social to dissolve in any way into the natural.