The place of biology in Durkheim’s early texts : a forgotten paradigm ?
In his early texts, Durkheim cited and made extensive use of the life sciences, including naturalist theses tinged with ethnocentrism and sexism. The apparent contradiction between this biology-marked argumentation and the more numerous and more frequently commented on texts in which he firmly criticized ethnocentrism and biological reductionism in sociology recedes as soon as we reconstitute the general field of thought specific to the biology-inspired sociology of the period in which he was developing his views. Returning to the early Durkheim’s biological and naturalist sources, sources often neglected or euphemized in commentaries, also brings out an original aspect of his first texts : it was, in his view, perfectly possible to claim the epistemological autonomy of social facts without having to accept the idea that the individual mind was entirely fashioned by society. Furthermore, the investigation reveals by contrast certain aspects of the way a part of today’s social sciences view their relations with today’s and yesterday’s life sciences.