Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sociology and Psychoanalysis

The August number of MIH also includes an essay on Marcel Gauchet by Samuel Moyn. It has been my policy, here, to mostly refrain from discussing the work of contemporary historians and in particular those in my field. This is related to my reluctance to write anything here that touches too closely on my dissertation work.

Moyn is an excellent historian. I have read both of his books and several essays. The combined quality and quantity of his output is both inspirational and more than a little disheartening. I am more than willing, therefore, to follow him past 1968, out of areas I have myself studied, and into the later part of the 20th century. I will say hardly anything, though, about the content of this essay, only that it is an excellent example of the kind of 'contextual philology,' if I remember the phrase correctly, that he's been doing for some time.

In terms of the work I have been doing now, what I want to ask of this essay is a name: Durkheim. He increasingly seems to me to be central to 20th century French thought. This essay convinces me that, for instance, other things could be said of Durkheim and the ‘self’ than Jerrold Seigel says in his book. Durkheim opened certain terrains that it is not far wrong to say Foucault and others exploited. So, a wishlist: Durkheim and the self, Durkheimian sociology and psychoanalysis, and finally a historically sensitive treatment of Foucault and Durkheim. I wonder if there is less discussion of a legacy of Durkheimian thought than there is of, say, Bergsonian thought, is that many of Durkheim’s immediate students went on to become boring and responsible moderate socialist and progressive liberals? Alternate paths, for instance the underbelly that is the ethnographic-surrealist current, had no interest in being progeny of such a father? What does Bataille say about Durkheim? I’ve no idea. Does Foucault talk about Durkheim anywhere at any length?

But these are my own questions, not Moyn’s. I look forward to the book of which this essay, presumably, will be some part.

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