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Suffering and Evil

Suffering and Evil: The Durkheimian Legacy

W.S.F. Pickering
Massimo Rosati
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 204
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  • Book Info
    Suffering and Evil
    Book Description:

    Until recently the subject of suffering and evil was neglected in the sociological world and was almost absent in Durkheimian studies as well. This book aims to fill the gap, with particular reference to the Durkheimian tradition, by exploring the different meanings that the concepts of evil and suffering have in Durkheim's works, together with the general role they play in his sociology. It also examines the meanings and roles of these concepts in relation to suffering and evil in the work of other authors within the group of theAnnee sociologiqueup until the beginning of World War II. Finally, the Durkheimian legacy in its wider aspects is assessed, with particular reference to the importance of the Durkheimian categories in understanding and conceptualizing contemporary forms of evil and suffering.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-859-1
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
    W.S.F. Pickering and Massimo Rosati
  4. Prolegomena

    • Introduction: Suffering, Evil and Durkheimian Sociology: Filling a Gap
      (pp. 3-10)
      W.S.F. Pickering and Massimo Rosati

      Suffering in many forms has always been an integral part of the human condition. The issue, however, has become a far more demanding topic today in the light of the recent series of national and international disasters on a monumental scale. They have been brought to the attention of the public via the mass media: genocides, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, famines, acts of terrorism, civil wars, international wars, the ever-increasing scourge of AIDS. The list has no end. No sooner has some cessation or healing of suffering been achieved in one area than new wounds appear in the body of humanity....

    • Reflections on the Death of Emile Durkheim
      (pp. 11-28)
      W.S.F. Pickering

      In the new or Second Series of theAnnée sociologique, Marcel Mauss, as the editor and nephew of Emile Durkheim, wrote:

      Durkheim died on 15 November, 1917, at the peak of his life at fifty-nine and a half years of age, after a long illness that started at the beginning of December 1916. (L’Année sociologique, n.s., 1923–24, I: 9)

      He went on to say that Durkheim had been aware that the end was nigh and that he had had time to arrange his manuscripts and leave instructions about their disposition. Elsewhere it is recorded that he died at 2...

  5. I. Suffering and Evil in Durkheim

    • Chapter 1 Le Suicide and Psychological Suffering
      (pp. 31-48)
      Sophie Jankélévitch

      In theRègles de la méthode sociologique, Durkheim compares the roles of statesman and doctor: like the latter, the statesman ‘prevents the birth of diseases by good hygiene, and seeks to cure them when they occur’ (Durkheim 1895a: 93).Mutatis mutandis, the sociologist occupies a position as eminent as Plato’s philosopher king. Just as the latter’s science of moderation is placed at the service of the constitution of a just political order, so the sociologist’s knowledge of the normal and the pathological is placed at the service of the health of the social body. In itself this knowledge is disinterested:...

    • Chapter 2 Suffering and Evil in the Elementary Forms
      (pp. 49-62)
      Massimo Rosati

      Within Durkheimian studies the problem of evil has been neglected for a long time.¹ Even if, according to Durkheim, religion has primarily to do with communion, joy and shared emotions (see Pickering 2008; Watts Miller 2005), in this chapter I maintain that in theElementary Formsone can find or reconstruct a thought-provoking ’phenomenology of evil’. In my further contribution to this volume, I will show how and why a Durkheimian approach to the problem of evil can be very useful in the context of contemporary reflections and debates.

      Durkheim, to be sure, did not present the problem of evil...

    • Chapter 3 Some Concepts of ‘Evil’ in Durkheim’s Thought
      (pp. 63-80)
      Giovanni Paoletti

      An inquiry into Durkheim’s concepts of ‘evil’ presents some difficulties. In a sense, and despite his reputation as a ‘sociologist of order and cohesion’, the problem of ‘evil’ could be seen as a theme which Durkheim constantly took into consideration in all his main texts. However, we have to remember that the word ‘evil’ is not a Durkheimian term; on the contrary, he endeavoured systematically to translate it into other, more scientific, expressions. Therefore, if we wish nevertheless to speak of ‘evil’, how can we recognize where Durkheim is dealing with the concept of evil, without using the word? A...

    • Chapter 4 Suffering to Become Human: A Durkheimian Perspective
      (pp. 81-100)
      Mark S. Cladis

      The trouble is that we are social beings dwelling in a mostly asocial universe. Since most of nature is silent, that is to say, does not participate in sociolinguistic forms of life, we find it difficult to describe our social nature in relation to the rest of nature. Perhaps this difficulty would largely disappear if we humans would consider ourselves part of the natural world and, by extension, consider everything we make and do as being part of nature. It is an illusion to maintain that humans are not part of nature, that humans do not necessarily dwell there. We...

  6. II. The Durkheimian Legacy

    • Chapter 5 Robert Hertz on Suffering and Evil: The Negative Processes of Social Life and Their Resolution
      (pp. 103-117)
      Robert Parkin

      Within the Durkheim group, the life and work of Robert Hertz (1881–1915) occupies a unique position for a number of reasons. First, of all the members of the group who died in the First World War, he is perhaps the most regretted, due to his perceived brilliance and promise. Secondly, while the influence of his published work over later anthropology is clearly eclipsed by that of Durkheim and Mauss, it has still been considerable, but unlike theirs it has been primarily limited to anthropology. Thirdly, there is the intellectual focus in most of his work on the negative aspect...

    • Chapter 6 Le Malin Génie: Durkheim, Bataille and the Prospect of a Sociology of Evil
      (pp. 118-135)
      William Ramp

      Several topics once deemed quirkish or marginal to Durkheim’s purposes have been revisited productively in recent scholarship. They displace the image of the sober theorist of order and function with one anticipating a latter-day avant-garde: the Collège de Sociologie and, in particular, the preoccupations of Georges Bataille (Richman 2002).¹ The Collège may have owed as much to Nietzschean readings of Mauss and Hertz as to Durkheim (Gane 2003; Rosati 2004b), and attention paid to Bataille may unjustly neglect Collègiens such as Caillois (Riley 2005b). Nonetheless, it seems intuitively apt to examine Durkheim’s and Bataille’s references to suffering and evil in...

    • Chapter 7 Evil and Collective Responsibility: The Durkheimian Legacy and Contemporary Debates
      (pp. 136-147)
      Massimo Rosati

      It was observed in a previous chapter that in theElementary Formsevil emerges as a social fact more associated with collective forces than with individual agency (Chapter 2). Consequently, salvation from evil (and suffering) is a collective drama, implying mutual responsibility, a shared destiny, a common past, common memories and projects for the future. Salvation, like evil, is a social fact.

      In theElementary Forms(1912a) Durkheim shows how the social forces that are at the basis of evil have religious overtones. Accordingly, rescuing oneself and a community from evil implies a ritual process of expiation. In hisDivision...

    • Chapter 8 The Hague Tribunal: Critical Reflections Prompted by Durkheim’s Remarks on Suffering
      (pp. 148-162)
      John B. Allcock

      This chapter was originally given as a paper for a Study Day in June, 2004, convened by the British Centre for Durkheimian Studies in Oxford. My agreement to undertake the task was shaped by two coincidences. Bill Pickering, the convener, asked me if I would do it the week after the Madrid train bombings. Among my first responses to his invitation was a question. Could Durkheim have had anything interesting to offer in relation to a world which now seems, in many respects, to be so different from his? Two thoughts followed hard on the heels of my own question....

    • Chapter 9 Looking Backwards and to the Future
      (pp. 163-178)
      W.S.F. Pickering

      In various ways the preceding chapters have unearthed hidden or neglected aspects of Durkheim’s work with reference to suffering and evil. These studies have also included those of a disciple and others who have followed in his footsteps, but perhaps less enthusiastically. For some readers the findings may be surprising and, indeed, helpful. They have shown that Durkheim did in fact incorporate into his social theory the facts of suffering and evil. Beyond all shadow of doubt he demonstrated that he was not oblivious to the way humans have suffered in one way or another. Other readers, however, may be...

  7. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 179-180)
  8. References
    (pp. 181-190)
  9. Index
    (pp. 191-196)