Durkheim, the Durkheimians, and the Arts

Durkheim, the Durkheimians, and the Arts

Alexander Riley
W.S.F. Pickering
William Watts Miller
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Durkheim, the Durkheimians, and the Arts
    Book Description:

    Using a broad definition of the Durkheimian tradition, this book offers the first systematic attempt to explore the Durkheimians' engagement with art. It focuses on both Durkheim and his contemporaries as well as later thinkers influenced by his work. The first five chapters consider Durkheim's own exploration of art; the remaining six look at other Durkheimian thinkers, including Marcel Mauss, Henri Hubert, Maurice Halbwachs, Claude Levi-Strauss, Michel Leiris, and Georges Bataille. The contributors-scholars from a range of theoretical orientations and disciplinary perspectives-are known for having already produced significant contributions to the study of Durkheim. This book will interest not only scholars of Durkheim and his tradition but also those concerned with aesthetic theory and the sociology and history of art.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-918-3
    Subjects: Sociology, Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction to Durkheim, the Durkheimians, and the Arts
    (pp. 1-15)
    Alexander Riley

    Not least of the accomplishments of the sociology of art is the fact that the world of literary and art criticism has been influenced, albeit sometimes only indirectly and without proper acknowledgement of sources, for at least a half century now by a vision of the human world that can reasonably be classified as sociological. Most of those who make their professional living talking about works of art now consider it more or less an imperative to at least make mention of the fact that the artist is a human being occupying a particular position in a social world, with...

  5. Chapter 1 Total Aesthetics: Art and The Elemental Forms
    (pp. 16-42)
    William Watts Miller

    The Elemental Formsincludes a sketch of a general theory of art, which is part of its core worldview, and which lays the basis of what might be discussed as “a total aesthetics.” One of the problems in bringing this out is the need to understand the work’s overall structure, which in turn has origins in the story of the work itself and why and how it was created. In brief, it has roots in an intellectual crisis in which Durkheim’s old theories were undermined by a pioneering ethnography of Australia by Baldwin Spencer and Francis Gillen (1899). In forcing him...

  6. Chapter 2 Durkheim, the Arts, and the Moral Sword
    (pp. 43-58)
    W.S.F. Pickering

    On May 1, 1889 the Universal Exhibition was opened in Paris. As the greatest exhibition of its kind, it revealed extraordinary sights and sounds in the capital of the artistic world. The Exhibition made its mark on young aspiring artists whether they were composers, playwrights, painters or poets. The capital was dominated by the so-called Impressionists, Symbolists, and neo-Realists. They included such painters as Seurat, Van Gogh, Lautrec, and artists associated with Manet and Monet. The leading playwrights were the Goncourts, Poe, and Zola; the most famous of the poets was Mallarmé; and among a host of composers the best...

  7. Chapter 3 Durkheim and Festivals: Art, Effervescence, and Institutions
    (pp. 59-76)
    Jean-Louis Fabiani

    For quite some time now, Durkheimian sociology has been viewed as paying scant attention to art.¹ Indeed, one can imagine that Durkheim was too busy establishing the fundaments of his discipline to indulge in the more recreational aspects of social life. Sociologists build theories and consider serious topics (for example, capital, division of labor, rationality, and so on) and do not give overtime to what is happening after the working day. If we look at indexes and textbooks, this lack of interest is obvious. The upgrading of culture as a central feature of sociological investigation is a rather recent phenomenon...

  8. Chapter 4 The Power of Imagination and the Economy of Desire: Durkheim and Art
    (pp. 77-94)
    Pierre-Michel Menger

    Anyone who has read the founding works of social science knows that art and art-related matters and values are not central concerns for Marx or Durkheim. Without going so far as to claim that, because the question was only marginal for the author, it should be understood asthefundamental matter that his theory did not or could not encompass or account for, I will try to show that the problem of analyzing art does indicate some of the limits, interpretive uncertainties, and aporias that nascent social science ran up against. And across the distinct varieties of relativism by means...

  9. Chapter 5 Dostoevsky in the Mirror of Durkheim
    (pp. 95-118)
    Donald A. Nielsen

    The names Émile Durkheim and Fyodor Dostoevsky are seldom mentioned in the same breath. And why should they be? At first glance, they seem worlds apart. Durkheim was a leading figure in the development of the new science of sociology, which he saw as distinctively, if not uniquely, French in origin and spirit. He was heir to a long tradition of French social thought, much of it utopian, socialist, and positivist in inspiration, which emerged in the wake of the French Revolution and included names such as Montesquieu, Rousseau, Fourier, Saint-Simon, and Comte, to name only a few of the...

  10. Chapter 6 Durkheim, L’Année sociologique, and Art
    (pp. 119-132)
    Marcel Fournier

    In a short article entitled “L’Ecole durkheimienne à la recherche de la société perdue: la sociologie naissante et son milieu culturel,” E.A. Tiryakian proposes a provocative hypothesis: “There is a notable affinity between avant-garde art and the Durkheim school” (Tiryakian 1979:101). The author’s intention is to detect the influence of the cultural environment on the Durkheim school by establishing a relationship—in the form of “des preoccupations partagées”—between that school and French avant-garde artists and writers at the turn of the century. His approach is inspired by a study by Robert Nisbert,Sociology as an Art Form(1976), in...

  11. Chapter 7 Marcel Mauss on Art and Aesthetics: The Politics of Division, Isolation, and Totality
    (pp. 133-153)
    Michèle Richman

    The ambitions for this study are twofold: to examine the relatively neglected fields of art and aesthetics in the writings of Marcel Mauss, and to place them in dialogue with contemporary theory. Scholarship pertaining to Mauss’s actual thoughts on these matters has lagged behind recognition for his role as mentor in the interwar encounter between radical ethnography and avant-garde cultural milieus (Clifford 1981).¹ In two major works, the place of aesthetics in his conceptualization of a “total” person is either absent (Karsenti 1997) or future research is called on to address it (Tarot 1999). The reasons for this lacuna are...

  12. Chapter 8 Too Marvelous for Words . . .: Maurice Halbwachs, Kansas City Jazz, and the Language of Music
    (pp. 154-177)
    Sarah Daynes

    In the acclaimed documentaryJazzby Ken Burns, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis eloquently speaks of the unique connection shared by Billie Holiday and Lester Young, a connection which, he emphasizes, is rarely found:

    When you play music, it’s hard to really, even it’s hard to explain verbally, but, when you play music, you enter another world, it’s very abstract, and your sense of hearing . . . is heightened, and you’re listening to another person and you’re trying to absorb everything about them, their consciousness, what they mean when they’re talking to you, what they’re feeling like, where you think they’re...

  13. Chapter 9 Total Art: The Influence of the Durkheim School on Claude Lévi-Strauss’s Reflections on Art and Classification
    (pp. 178-201)
    Stephan Moebius and Frithjof Nungesser

    In his works Claude Lévi-Strauss repeatedly draws on art as a subject of anthropological reflection. For the son of a painter, the fine arts played an important role along with literature, and music, which is of enormous importance as a subject and above all as a scientific model. Initially, that is, in the late 1930s and in the 1940s, his deliberations on the aesthetic dimension of material culture were concentrated on the art of indigenous societies he investigated. Along with the somewhat unemotional ethnographic studies, earlier analyses also include impassioned texts that express his enthusiasm and his intensive, “almost carnal...

  14. Chapter 10 Sex, Death, the Other, and Art: The Search for Mythic Life in the Work of Michel Leiris
    (pp. 202-222)
    Alexander Riley

    Michel Leiris is perhaps the single most important writer working at the shadowy interstices between the human sciences and literature. Should they so desire, readers who know French will doubtless find some ground for opposing this claim, as there exist a number of twentieth-century French writers who, like Leiris, insisted on ignoring orthodox boundaries between the two realms and succeeded in their lifework in establishing unique constellations of connections between them. Some of the giants of the post-1968 generation who achieved international recognition could be discussed here: Foucault, Derrida, and Baudrillard explored the philosophy and theory of the social sciences...

  15. Chapter 11 Apophasis in Representation: Georges Bataille and the Aesthetics and Ethics of the Negative
    (pp. 223-257)
    S. Romi Mukherjee

    Georges Bataille was an enemy of “art.” He loathed all that attempted to redeem the base with appeals to the lofty, cultivated a sustained distrust of “absolutes” and “beauty,” and saw through the hypocrisies of high culture and other bourgeois loci of distinction and anxiety. It would then appear misguided to speak of “Bataille and art.” However, Bataille was not simply an aesthetic reactionary. Rather he suggested a reworking of thedispositifof “seeing” which, in his view, should be tantamount to being blinded and indeed torn apart. The capstone of knowledge is found in the dialectical inversion of the...

  16. Chapter 12 Acéphale/Parsifal: Georges Bataille contra Wagner
    (pp. 258-298)
    Claudine Frank

    The French avant-garde secret society Acéphale (1936–39) created by George Bataille, André Masson, and Pierre Klossowski together with friends and outside “consultants” such as Michel Leiris and Roger Caillois, sought to become, according to its founder, “the sole negation that does not simply consist in words, of that principle of necessity in the name of which all contemporary mankind collaborates to waste existence” (Hollier 1988:155). A truly radical negation indeed given the group’s (unfulfilled) project of human sacrifice, which presents an extreme variant or appropriation of what Alexander Riley calls “renegade Durkheimianism,” namely, the works of Marcel Mauss, Henri...

  17. Contributors
    (pp. 299-302)
  18. Index
    (pp. 303-312)