Ann Rawls 1 (Transl. by: Andrei Korbut 2 )
  • 1 Bentley University, 175 Forest Street, Waltham, MA 02452, USA
  • 2 National Research University Higher School of Economics, 20 Myasnitskaya Str., Moscow, 101000, Russian Federation

Durkheim’s treatment of practice: Concrete practice vs. representations as the foundation of reason

2005, vol. 4, No. 1, pp. 3–30 [issue contents]
It is generally thought that Durkheim based his theory of knowledge on a theory of representations. However, in The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1915 [1912]) he places great emphasis on concrete and witnessable aspects of practice such as sounds and movements and downplays the importance of beliefs and representations. He argues that ritual sounds and movements, when collectively enacted, can create sentiments that give rise to the essential concepts that he refers to as the categories of the understanding. Representations are, in his view, secondary phenomena that arise only after participation in social practices. This article demonstrates this through an analysis of Durkheim’s text where he specifically referred to ritual practices in concrete and not representational terms at strategic points in the argument. Furthermore, it is here argued that the collective experience of concrete sounds and movements was, in Durkheim’s view, a prerequisite for the subsequent development of representations. Opposite to Durkheim’s intentions, the substitution of beliefs for practices became one of the primary characteristics of contemporary sociology. In fact, a focus on beliefs and representations, instead of practices, has characterized most of 20th-century sociology. In this article this predominant point of view is characterized as the “fallacy of misplaced abstraction”, which causes us to treat all phenomena as conceptually mediated. However, sounds and movements must be rendered recognizable in concrete terms before they have conceptual significance. In other words, while concepts may define the boundaries of what can be understood, the recognizability of sounds and movements defines the boundaries of what can be rendered in conceptual terms.
Citation: Rawls A. (2005) Dyurkgeymovskaya traktovka praktiki: al'ternativa konkretnykh praktik i predstavleniy kak osnovaniy razuma [Durkheim’s treatment of practice: Concrete practice vs. representations as the foundation of reason]. The Russian Sociological Review, vol. 4, no 1, pp. 3-30 (in Russian)
The Russian Sociological Review
Office A-205
21/4 Staraya Basmannaya Ulitsa, Building 1
Deputy Editor: Marina Pugacheva
Rambler's Top100 rss