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The Elementary Forms of Religious Life Paperback – June 1, 1995


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; Reprint edition (June 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0029079373
  • ISBN-13: 978-0029079379
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,497 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) founded the French school of sociology. In 1893 he created the Annee Sociologique, which he edited until 1913, and he wrote seminal texts including The Division of Labor in Society, Suicide, and The Rules of Sociological Method.

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Customer Reviews

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68 of 71 people found the following review helpful By Victoria Bowhill on June 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is a sociological text written by Durkheim. One of the forefathers of Sociology, he believed that to study sociology you must identify social phenomena and then trace it to its origins to see how it came about. This for Durkheim was the only way to understand society.
In this book he examines the origins of religion. He explains that religion develops from the collective feelings of security we gain from living in a group, and these feelings are very powerful and important to us. However, early tribes passed these feelings onto which ever object they were close to at the time of experiencing the emotions, or the most frequent object in their area. The object could include a plant, vegetable or an animal, which would then be represented in a carving of stone or wood and then worshipped. This for Durkheim is the beginning of totemism, the first religion.
He follows on to discuss how our first religion gave us an understanding of the world around us, our conception of space and time. For Durkheim 'the framework of our intelligence' is made up of the concepts of space, time, numbers and our existence, and they were born 'in religion'.
Durkheim's writing is suprisingly easy to read and very enjoyable. His examination of early societies gives much insight into their lives and how they understood the world to be. For anybody studying Durkheim, this book is a good topic area to concentrate on. However, for anybody interested in theology or in early societies, it is a fascinating read. I read this book as part of my degree course and, although I borrowed it from the library, even after my course has ended I am now buying my own copy to reread.
I recommend this book to a wide range of readers, not only those interested in sociology. Read it, you'll be suprised!
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By highduke on May 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
In this book Durkheim examines the origins of religion. He explains that religion developed from the collective feelings of security we gain from living in a group, and that these feelings are very powerful and important to us. Early tribes passed these feelings onto which ever object they were close to or the most frequent object in their area at the time of experiencing the emotions. The object could include a plant, vegetable or an animal, which would then be represented in a carving of stone or wood and then worshipped. This for Durkheim is the beginning of totemism, the first religion. He follows on to discuss how our first religion gave us an understanding of the world around us, our conception of space and time. For Durkheim 'the framework of our intelligence' is made up of the concepts of space, time, numbers and our existence, and they were born 'in religion'.

What emerges is no mere dry academic treatise, but an absolutely fascinating journey through topics such as the rain dances of the Pueblo Indians, the finger exercises of monkeys, and the hallucinations of alcoholics. Durkheim, of course, is the father of modern sociology and anthropology and even though sociology and anthropology have rejected many of his theories over the years he is still worth reading because the state of modern sociology and anthropology is polluted with all sorts of assumptions that are mostly politically correct eather than factually correct. The predominant belief that "we have come a long way since 1912" is completely misleading.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Alex Johnston on October 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
I've read Suicide and Division of Labor and was interested in a historical sort of way. Elementary Forms is positively shocking. Pages 8-18 and 433-48 will change your life. In those 25 or so pages he outlines a sociology of knowledge that presages the works of Mead, Berger, and the phenomenologists. He's 50 years ahead of Merleau-Ponty's great Phenomenology of Perception which treads over much of the same material. The rest of EFRL is interesting as well but if you read nothing else of Durkheim's read those pages. They completely reinvigorated the stuffy "father of sociology" I had known.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Chickpeafan on August 31, 2012
Format: Paperback
Just a note to readers who are sensitive to this sort of thing, as I am. The Kladis/Cosman edition of 2001 is abridged, the Karen E. Fields version of 1995 is not. Otherwise the two editions are surprisingly similar, including the glossary.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
Durkheim, of course, is a father of modern sociology and anthropology. Even though sociology and anthropology have rejected many of his theories over the years he is still worth reading. I think that many of his ideas can still provide useful ways to think about society and culture; this work may be a bit out-of-date but it's definitely not obsolete. Either way, anyone interested in sociology or anthropology should read this work, if only to get a better understanding of where these disciplines have been. Fields' new translation gives this old work new clothing and is well worth the investment.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ellis Godard on November 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
Durkheim was not as scientific (or as sociological, or even as valid) as he might have been, but that matters little. He helped start the discipline, and the rest of us have had a century to make advances. This is where to see it just beginning to take form.
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