Durkheim’s Dilemma: Toward a Sociology of Emergence


R. Keith Sawyer Washington University, Program in Social Thought and Analysis, Campus Box 1183, St. Louis, MO 63130keith@keithsawyer.com


The concept of emergence is a central thread uniting Durkheim’s theoretical and empirical work, yet this aspect of Durkheim’s work has been neglected. I reinterpret Durkheim in light of theories of emergence developed by contemporary philosophers of mind, and I show that Durkheim’s writings prefigure many elements of these contemporary theories. Reading Durkheim as an emergentist helps to clarify several difficult and confusing aspects of his work, and reveals a range of unresolved issues. I identify five such issues, and I show how Durkheim’s writings on emergence suggest potential responses.