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Sociology Face to Face with Pragmatism: Action, Concept, and Person. Translated by Simon Susen

Karsenti, B. (2012). Sociology Face to Face with Pragmatism: Action, Concept, and Person. Translated by Simon Susen. Journal of Classical Sociology, 12(3–4), pp. 398-427.


Émile Durkheim faced his final challenge in the confrontation with pragmatism. Pragmatism had emerged as an important theoretical approach for the study of both life and action. As argued in this article, Durkheim’s attempt to explain the philosophical underpinnings of sociology was sharpened by his critical engagement with pragmatism. In Durkheim’s work, the confrontation between pragmatism and sociology brought the focus onto the problem of the irreducibility of thought and action. According to the French scholar, one of the main challenges for sociology was to reconstruct the basic concepts of pragmatism, but in a way that stood in opposition to various central presuppositions underlying classical forms of this philosophical doctrine. His indepth confrontation with pragmatism gave Durkheim the opportunity to clarify the meaning of his own scientific project, including the meaning of its fundamental categories. The theory of knowledge arising from Durkheim’s interpretation of pragmatism was most clearly established in his The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, resulting in a genuinely sociological understanding of action, concept, and person. More importantly, however, some of Durkheim’s most valuable contributions can be derived from his effort to move away from pragmatism.

Publication Type: Article
Publisher Keywords: Action, collective representations, concept, ideal, Durkheim, practice, pragmatism, religious experience, social theory
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
[thumbnail of 4. CRO (Accepted Version) Bruno Karsenti (trans. Simon Susen) (2012) ‘Sociology Face to Face with Pragmatism – Action, Concept, and Person’.pdf]
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