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Contribution to Collected Edition

Emile Durkheim and the sociology of religion


Koenig,  Matthias
Fellow Group Governance of Cultural Diversity, MPI for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Max Planck Society;

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Koenig, M. (2020). Emile Durkheim and the sociology of religion. In H. Joas, & A. Pettenkofer (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Émile Durkheim. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190679354.013.18.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0006-6288-2
As religion has gained public and scholarly attention, sociologists have critically revised orthodox secularization theory. This article revisits Emile Durkheim’s sociologie religieuse and explores its potential and limitation for analyzing contemporary religious reconfigurations in the twenty-first century. First, it reviews how the “New Durkheim” as recovered by the recent historiography of classical sociology defined, explained, and assessed religion. It argues that Durkheim’s theory of the sacred, its relation to society, and its impact on morality and knowledge displays inherent tensions reflected in his quest for social bonds in secular society. Second, having acknowledged Durkheim’s ambivalent legacy in the sociology of religion and cultural sociology more broadly, the article shows that his theory of the sacred, while failing to grasp religio-political power configurations so central to the Weberian tradition, helps discern the persistence and production of collective religious forms in a global age, ranging from nationalisms to human rights.