The Initial Critique, 1915–1924


*Direct all correspondence to Anne Warfield Rawls Wayne State University


Although it is evident in his work from the beginning, Durkheim's epistemological argument did not appear in its completed form until the 1912 publication of The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. There Durkheim outlined a theory of enacted social practice as the foundation for an epistemology. Yet neither Durkheim's contribution to a theory of social practice nor his epistemological argument have been recognized as such. The early critics played a pivotal role in creating and perpetuating this misunderstanding. The first highly negative wave of criticism in English, which treated Durkheim's arguments as naive, inadequate philosophy, appeared between 1915 and 1924. Inadequate as these initial criticisms were, citations show that they have been heavily relied upon. On these critics’ authority, scholars rejected Durkheim's epistemology altogether, focusing instead on his sociology of knowledge and sociology of religion.