Review of É. Durkheim, Les Formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse

Arnold van Gennep, Bjørn Thomassen


This article is a translation of Arnold van Gennep’s  “Review of É. Durkheim, Les Formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse,” Mercure de France 101 (374) (January 16, 1913): 389–91; reprinted in Chroniques de folklore d'Arnold van Gennep, 1905–1949 (texts collected and introduced by J. M. Privat), 92–95, Paris: Éditions du CTHS., 2001.

The introductory article situates Arnold van Gennep’s review of Émile Durkheim’s The elementary forms of the religious life. It does so by relating the review to van Gennep’s much-neglected endeavor to establish methodological foundations for the emerging social sciences in the early twentieth century, in open contrast to Durkheim and the Durkhemian school of anthropology and sociology. It also contextualizes the review by revisiting earlier publications where van Gennep decisively went up against Durkheim’s approach to religion and society. The article finally suggests that Arnold van Gennep must be considered a founding figure of ethnographic theory, of relevance still today. 


Arnold van Gennep, Émile Durkheim, religion (theory of), ritual, ethnographic theory, history of social science

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau7.1.044