Dmitry Kurakin 1, 2
  • 1 National Research University Higher School of Economics, 20 Myasnitskaya Str., Moscow, 101000, Russian Federation
  • 2 Yale University, 204 Prospect St., room 2004, New Haven, CT, USA, 06511

The Elementary Forms of Religious Life : A Great Book and a Great Mystery

2018, vol. 17, No. 2, pp. 115–121 [issue contents]

The Elementary Forms of Religious Life: A Great Book and a Great Mystery


Dmitry Kurakin

Candidate of Sociology, Leading Research Fellow of the Centre for Fundamental Sociology, Director of the Center for Cultural Sociology and Anthropology of Education, National Research University Higher School of Economics

Address: Myasnitskaya Str., 20, Moscow, Russian Federation 101000

E-mail: dmitry.kurakin@hse.ru


In his preface to the Conclusion of Durkheim’s The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, the editor of the Russian translation discusses a puzzling situation with the translations of Durkheim’s works. For one, at least until now, The Elementary Forms was the only major Durkheim work which had not been translated into Russian. This is especially strange considering the outstanding role this classic work plays in contemporary sociology. However, the author of this article suggests that there is a kind of logic behind this state of affairs. Not only is this book a major resource for sociological theory, but it is also a great mystery. The perception of this book has been substantially changing within the discipline for decades and the way sociologists read The Elementary Forms today is very different from the way they read it half-a-century or even a century ago. In this article, the author discusses the complicated and ever-changing influence this classic work has exerted on sociology. He addresses the complex issue of the perception of The Elementary Forms in sociology, and comments on several types of corresponding translation problems. In particular, he suggests that Durkheim introduced the “piacular rite”, an unorthodox type of ritual, out of the theoretic logic of his argument and in relation to his attempt to explain the feature of the ambiguity of the sacred. This publication also announces the printing of the unabridged Russian translation of the discussed book as scheduled for the autumn of 2018 from the Elementary Forms Press.
Citation: Kurakin D. (2018) «Elementarnye formy»: velikaya kniga i velikaya tayna [The Elementary Forms of Religious Life : A Great Book and a Great Mystery]. The Russian Sociological Review, vol. 17, no 2, pp. 115-121 (in Russian)
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