Re: Durkheim on historical origin versus current utility

From: John Wilkins (
Date: Fri 13 Feb 2004 - 03:54:10 GMT

  • Next message: Steven Thiele: "Re: Durkheim on historical origin versus current utility"

    On Friday, February 13, 2004, at 02:36 PM, Steven Thiele wrote:

    > Durkheim:
    > 'The fault of the biological sociologists was not that they used it
    > [analogy] but that they used it wrongly. Instead of trying to control
    > their studies of society by their knowledge of biology, they tied to
    > infer the laws of the first from the laws of the second. Such
    > inference is worthless. If the laws governing natural life are found
    > also in society, they are found in different forms and with specific
    > characteristics which do not permit conjecture by analogy and can only
    > be understood by direct observation.'
    > So much for those who think that Durkheim's work can be connected to
    > memetics. Memetics is hostile to all forms of sociology, both the good
    > and the bad.
    > Steven Thiele
    > University of New England
    > Armidale, NSW, Australia
    A good many ideas of Durkheim's can be applied without having to agree with them all (e.g., his individualism). I personally think that the functionalist sociology he proposed is explicable as the interaction between cultural and social institutional (i.e., memetic) evolution and biology (sociobiology or ev psych). Durkheim's blindness here is perhaps understandable given the rampant might is rightism of Spencer and his followers at the time. We don't need to perpetuate such stark oppositions.

    John S Wilkins
    Head, Communication Services
    The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research
    Parkville, Victoria, Australia
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