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David Emile Durkheim

Major Works
Solidarity and the Division of Labor
Collective Representations
Learning Tools
Site Creators


Durkheim Rules!


David Emile Durkheim


-         Emile Durkheim was born April 15, 1858 in Epinal, Lorraime to Moise and Melanie Durkheim. Moise, a third generation Rabbi influenced Emile to start a career in the Rabbinate, however, his enthusiasam dwindled upon entering high school.

-         Durkheim retained his strong Jewish ties and the Jewish upbringing remained a strong influence in his life. He remained close to the Jewish community even when not actively participating in the religious aspects of Judaism.

-         Durkheim excelled at the College d’Epinal where he graduated with a bachelors of letters and sciences in 1874 and 1875 respectively. It was at this point in his life that he decided he wanted to become a teacher.

-         To prepare for post graduate studies at the prestigious Ecole Normale Superiure in Paris, France, Durkheim studied extensive Latin and rhetoric while trying to take care of his sick father and his family welfare. After failing the admissions exam twice, he was finally admitted in 1879.

-         In 1882 Durkheim passed the aggregation, an exam required for school teachers.

-         An initiative for a more secular and republican education prompted the Letters at Bordeaux to begin a course in pedagogy. Durkheim, being interested in the teaching of a secular and scientific “French morality,” was given the job of teaching the “Science Sociale,” which was the first sociology class in the French education system.

-         Durkheim used this opportunity to express his strong beliefs in sociology as a social science, rather than the predominate humanist sciences such as, philosophy, history, and law.

-         Critics worried that this new social science was risking the ideals based in, “Free will and moral agency.” However, this contributed to recognition and more publicity of his works as a sociologist.

-          Durkheim published the first sociological journal in 1898 and remained active in education and sociological studies.

-         Most of his career, Durkheim fought the conventionality of the day and was often opposed for his social scientific study of morality and religion.

-         In addition, he worked hard during WWI to undermine the German war effort, and was yet again criticized by his fellow countrymen for his work, and for his Jewish ancestry.

-         When his son died in the war, Durkheim became emotionally distraught. His work on the war also was taking its toll on his health.

-         On November 15th, 1917 Durkheim died at the age of 59.   


              Emile Durkheim: An Introduction to Four Major Works. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, Inc., 1986. Pp.