I explore a set of contradictions crucial to Durkheim's work, that revolve around
the issue of whether modern society (i.e., industrial capitalism) is structured according
to the principle of individual mobility or the principle of caste. Specifically,
I analyze Durkheim's theories of race, class, and sex to determine if they describe
modern society in terms of individuals or in terms of castes. I find that Durkheim
has both a dominant and a subordinate theory for each category. I also find that
his theories of race and class differ significantly from his theories of sex. Durkheim's
dominant theories of race and class and his subordinate theory of sex are theories
of individuals in modern society. Conversely, his dominant theory of sex and his
subordinate theories of race and class are theories of castes in modern society.
I view Durkheim's social theory as a quintessential construction of modernity, and
I view Durkheim as a quintessential liberal "of sorts." I conclude that the contradictions
at the heart of Durkheim's social theory are contradictions at the heart of modern
society--and at the heart of liberal ideology.