Annotations on The Rules of Durkheim (V). Of the classification societies

Chapter 4 is the shortest of The Rules, which is already itself a text rather brief, and Durkheim makes it clear that his interest is ancillary. The difference between the normal and the pathological, the axis of the previous chapter, it is a difference that depends on the type of society: What is normal is defined for a social species specific says Durkheim. Then, the task of establishing what is normal and what is pathological requires to resolve the problem of how to identify social species. The classification of social species (that is clear in the section II of the chapter which discusses the methodology) is designed from evolutionism linear and directional that it was common in the NINETEENTH century, but it is less credible and influential today.

Given this, this chapter would appear with a low level of interest in and of itself. However, it is here where Durkheim discusses the task of sorting out, and that is in itself a task that accompanies the social sciences. Let’s see, then, that we can say this chapter in the light of that concern, which is not identical to that of Durkehim.

In connection with the task of sorting Durkheim posed a fundamental argument: That the realization of a scientific classification does not can be thought of as something subsequent to the accumulation of the data:

Car faire le inventaire de tous les caràcteres qui appartiennent à a’individu est un problème insoluble. Tout’individu est un infini et l infini ne peut être épuisé. S’en tiendra-t-on aux propriétés les plus essentielles? Mais d’après quel principe ferrara-t-on le triage? Il faut by cela a critère qui dépasse l’individu et les monographies, les mieux faites ne sauraient par conséquent, nous survey to provide (Cap IV, I, p 79)

The argument, as good that makes Durkheim, is irreproachable. Empiricism pure does not work and there are always concepts and theoretical ideas prior, which are those that allow you to first set a description (because it establishes the framework under which it operates). However, the result that gets Durkheim is not correct.

In section II Durkheim, given that empiricism is wrong, offers his version of a good rating. What it does is to think of what could be the simplest form of society (that which cannot be divided into smaller units)

Le mot de simplicité n’a de sens défini that s’il signifie une absence complète of parties. Par société simple, il faut donc entendre toute société qui n in renferme pas d’autres, plus simple qu elle; qui non seulement est actuellemente réduite à a segment unique, mais encore qui ne présente aucune trace d’une segmentation antérieure (Chap IV, II, p 82)

To that form of society called the horde (which he notes can only postulate, because you will not find any society so simple that it is equivalent to this ‘protoplasm of the social realm’ (p 83) , and then proceeds to build other types of society from combinations of these units.

However, the fact that any classification requires a framework of theoretical observations it does not follow that the classification should be constructed theoretically, or even that it’s more convenient to do it that way. It is certain, in any case, that a good part of the classifications resulting from the combination of theoretical concepts. It is not that this procedure does not serve, it is only that such a procedure is not the one that produces classifications that are more useful (secondarily, it does not produce the result that you want to Durkheim -build social species, given that the concept of species requires that the classification be ‘real’, and it is this that fails to the procedure). Defend this last statement.

Sorting is a common operation, a good part of the disciplines. Now, the ranking only appears as something crucial and central, and as contributing to knowledge, in some of them. In particular, the taxonomy is informative and relevant in biology, in a way that does not occur in other sciences. At the same time, the biological classification is not derivable theoretically: or arthropod, or craneado, or cephalopod, are the distinctions that were reached theoretically. Not only are distinctions empirical, but are -according to the understanding of them is biology – distinctions real, are not simple groupings nominal: In particular, correspond to lines of descent (the chordates, which include all the descendants from a common trunk basal). Which leads us to remember that the basic unit -the species – is also intended, in principle, as a group: The set that can reproduce among themselves (by the way, the reality is much more complex than the previous, but for now let’s leave the point there). In these conditions, a classification may contribute in itself to the knowledge of a field of reality.

We can observe that the societies of Durkheim do not comply with these requirements. Which would not be, in principle, very relevant, what would be the relevance of saying the 2018 that Durkheim was wrong in something? However, the habit of thinking that operates in Durkheim continues to operate in us, and this must be its relevance to examine it now. In the first place, it is not clear when it is constituted as a unit (when do you see a society or ends up another?) In some cases it seems that the idea of society is structured politically. So to deny that in certain societies, the families can be considered a smaller drive that disaggregates the society tells us:

puis, elles ne constitutent pas, à parler exactement, des segments sociaux seem qu e elles ne sont pas of divisions politiques (Chap IV, II, p 83)

The organization of politics and its limits, then, to determine the organization and boundaries of society. But, at the same time, when addressing the greeks of homeric (or the araucanians, as he himself quotes) as a society, it is clear that the unity of society does not require a political unit. So, what is a society?

And these are issues that, in fact. is replicated in the social research. How many comparative studies are not used routinely and without question, the political divisions as being equivalent to distinctions between societies? (Think of any chart that puts in their points into a country).

The lines of descent (the subject is treated in section III of the chapter) also presented problems in this regard. Since it happens that each society as individual case generates a society of another type (Chap IV, III, p 87), and then missing the fact that it constitutes the species in the case of biological (that the individual reproduces to an individual of the same species).

Showing that the problems that we are stating do not operate in all aspects of social life, but in particular around the issue of classifying societies (and of all the units that have those problems). The classifications of language, in fact, resemble the biological: In principle, there exists a condition of construction unit of the language that is similar to that of the species (all of the speakers that can be understood by each other) and the classification attempts to reproduce the historical evolution of languages: The category ‘language of romance’ or ‘indo-european’ does not come from theoretical distinctions, but try to follow historical facts (the Spanish or the French are descended from Latin). And again, there the classification is itself something that contributes to the understanding of the world.

In other words, without the existence of a clear demarcation of the unit of the object and without the constitution of a classification that attempts to replicate a real-world process so that we obtain are the classifications of weak and generic, nothing that can sustain a relevance of the classification task that warrants its inclusion as one of the chapters of the Rules of The Method Sociological.


NOTE. As in the other entries, we quote from the edition Presses Universitaires de France, collection Quadrige

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