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The Question of Caste in Modern Society: Durkheim's Contradictory Theories of Race, Class, and Sex

Опубликовано на портале: 23-12-2002
American Sociological Review. 2002.  Vol. 60. No. 4. P. 566-585. 
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.