From the Sacred Collectivity to the Sacred Individual: The Misunderstood Durkheimian Legacy
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Durkheim is often depicted both as philosophically an anti-individualist and as a sociologist committed to value free science. His work, particularly Suicide, is seen by many as a polemic with Spencerian laissez-faire individualism as well as the epitome of sociology as a science. This view is but a simplistic evaluation of Durkheim. While he was opposed to egoistic and anomic individualism, he should, however, be considered an important promulgator of the doctrine of liberal-democratic individualism. His commitment to and view of moral individualism is commensurate with other important, contextual aspects of his thought. Of these, first and foremost is his view that all sciences, including sociology, should be practical and committed to the solving of social problems. Second, that sociology's subject matter should be the study of morality, particularly the principles of justice and freedom. These views reflect both the influence the eighteenth century Philosophes had on Durkheim as well as his commitment to a social philosophy rooted in his Jewish heritage. 1991 by the Ohio Valley Sociological Society.