Biographical Information and Timeline:
David Émile Durkheim
April 15, 1858 – November 15, 1917
-Durkheim is known as the founder of modern sociology. He was also the founder of the
first journal devoted to social science, the Année Sociologique, which is also the name
used to refer to the group of students who developed his sociological program.
-Durkheim was born in Lorraine (Epinal), East of France, in Epinal (Lorraine is a zone
bordering with Germany.)
-Married a woman named Louise, he believed in having her stay home (though she
helped husband with the proof-reading of l’Année sociologique)
-He was a father: had a son, André and a daughter, Marie;
-Jewish, patriarchal (refused to have his daughter attend university), puritan
-Believed in monogamous marriage and family life
-Followed rigid moral code
- Durkheim seldom spoke, except at meals (worked hard)
-Fought hard to become a professor in the Faculty of Letters finally became a professor at
end of life
-Durkheim’s two main contributions:
1-believed in need for third republic; was an advocate; was against a politically
2-Establishing L’année Sociologique
-Son André dies in the Balkans, WWI
-As a researcher and a theorist his work is affected by his son’s death and begins to bear a
more religious mark.
-Questioned whether or not he suffered from depression and psychological imbalances…
even more after his son’s death
-Religion always strong, even if nearly became atheist, went back to Judaism;
-We don’t know very much about him, in comparison to other researcher, theorists and
authors, because much of his letters disappeared in WWII.
-In 1943, Nazis took over daughter’s house and took over all; only letters left were some
that Durkheim left to his nephew Marcel Mausse.
-Hidden and highly assimilated Jew;
-Became much more open during WWI because he worked with Russian Jewish
-Position toward Judaism remained ambivalent until dying days;
-He admitted he was a pessimist
-Causes of his death remain a mystery, may have to do with fact that was depressed after
his son died, no conclusive evidence.
***Interesting to note that the British Centre for Durkhemian Studies was
only created in 1991. Only recently!!!! Can this be a reflection of how
capitalist and modern, post-modern society is so far from the types of
inquiries made by Durkheim? That we for so long have become preoccupied
with the individual, anthropocentrically, that it is difficult for us to consider
social phenomena as resulting from anything outside of out of our own
***Steve Lukes (who wrote Introduction in our book) wrote the Intellectual
biography on Durkheim as his thesis
Timeline of Important Dates and Events
Politics Science / Society Durkheim’s personal life
1848 February 25: the Second Republic is proclaimed.
1851 Comte begins the Système de Politique Positive, ou traitéde Sociologie
Instituant la Religion de l'Humanité (to be completed in 1854).
1852 Louis Napoleon's coup d'etat.
1856 May 6: Sigmund Freud is born in Freiberg, Moravia.
1857 Death of Auguste Comte (1798-1857).
1858 April 15: David Emile Durkheim is born at Épinal, capital town of the
department of Vosges, in Lorraine.
1859 Darwin publishes The Origin of Species by Natural Selection.
1863 Littré publishes Auguste Comte et la philosophie positive, with its suggestion that
Comte had broken with the true spirit of positivism.
1867 Renouvier founds La Critique philosophique, which gives voice to his particular
brand of neo-Kantianism. Renouvier founds Année philosophique
1872 Emile Littré establishes the Society of Sociology, which is particularly taken up
with the definition of social science and with determining its methods.
Espinas begins work on his thesis on animal societies, with the avowed intent to
extract from this study some laws that were common to all societies, not in order
to govern them - something that would imply the determination of very special
laws - but simply in order to better understand them, and in order to show that, in
the end, sociology is possible.
1873 January 7: Napoleon III dies.
1874 Durkheim obtains his baccalauréat ès lettres at the Collège d'Epinal.
1875 Durkheim obtains his baccalauréat ès sciences at the Collège d'Epinal and
distinguishes himself in the Concours général.
1876 Herbert Spencer publishes The Principles of Sociology, which inspires Espinas,
among others. Paul Janet insists that Alfred Espinas suppress the historical
introduction of his thesis because he was unwilling to strike out the name of
1877 Durkheim fails in his first attempt at the entrance examination at the École
Alfred Espinas (1844-1922) presents Les Sociétés animales, the first Doctorat
d'état in sociology in France. He is appointed philosophy professor of the Faculty
of Letters at Bordeaux.
1878 May: the opening of the Universal Exhibition.
Durkheim fails in his second attempt at the entrance examination at the École
1879 Near the end of the year, Durkheim is at last admitted to the École normale
1880 March 18: Law on the granting of degrees and the freedom of higher education.
March 29: Decrees against unauthorized religious orders.
July 12: Law abolishing the obligation to rest on Sunday.
1881 June 16: Law on free primary education.
1882 Durkheim passes the aggrégation (the competitive examination required for
admission to the teaching staff of state secondary schools, or lycées), and began
The Faculty of Letters at Bordeaux establishes France's first course in pedagogy
for prospective school teachers.
1884 July 27: Law on divorce.
August 14: Revision of the constitution.
1885 Emile Zola publishes Germinal.
1886 Durkheim returns from Germany, and publishes "Les Études de science sociale"
in the Revue philosophique.
1887 Durkheim publishes the fruits of his visit to Germany - i.e., "La Philosophie dans
les universités allemandes" and "La Science positive de la morale en Allemagne"
At the instigation of Alfred Espinas and Louis Liard, Durkheim is appointed
"Chargéd'un Cours de Science Sociale et de Pédagogie" at Bordeaux.
Durkheim gives opening lecture - later published as "Cours de science sociale:
leçon d'ouverture" - of his course on "La Solidarité sociale" at Bordeaux.
1888 Durkheim gives opening lecture - later published as "Introduction à la sociologie
de la famille" - of his course on "La Famille: origines, types principaux" at
Durkheim publishes "Le Programme économique de M. Schaeffle " and "Suicide
et natalité: étude de statistique morale."
1890 Durkheim publishes "Les Principes de 1789 et la sociologie."
1892 Durkheim presents his doctoral theses to Paris' Faculty of Letters -- De la
division du travail social and the Latin thesis on Montesquieu, Quid secundatus
politicae scientiae instituendae contulerit.
Xavier Léon and Élie Halévy establish the Revue de metaphysique et de morale,
which opposes Durkheim's conception of sociology in a review of his De la
division du travail social.
Espinas obtains the chair of social economy at the Sorbonne, considered the first
chair in the social sciences in France, resisting attempts by the historian Ernest
Lavisse to have the chair defined as social and economic history.
1893 March: Creation of the republican right.
Durkheim publishes De la division du travail social.
1894 A.W. Small, of the University of Chicago, creates the American Journal of
Sociology (of which Durkheim is an advisory editor until the War).
Durkheim obtains a permanent appointment as associate professor at Bordeaux.
The Revue philosophique starts a new section on "Sociologie" which often
receives contributions from Durkheim and his followers.
Durkheim publishes "Les Règles de la méthode sociologique" in the Revue
1895 Creation of the Annee psychologique by Binet, who remains director of the
journal until his death in 1911. Binet starts a laboratory in Paris for the study of
children and experimental teaching.
Freud and Breuer publish the Studies on Hysteria.
Title of Durkheim's course in Bordeaux is changed to "sciences sociales"
("pédagogie" is dropped).
Durkheim publishes Les Règles de la méthode sociologique.
1896 Durkheim is nominated Professeur de Science Sociale, the first chair with that
name in France.
1897 Espinas publishes The Origins of Technology.
Durkheim publishes Le Suicide: étude de sociologie.
The Rivista italiana di sociologia is founded.
1898 January 13: Emile Zola, "J'accuse." The next day the "Manifesto of the
Intellectuals" is published in L'Aurore. A few days later, various members of the
Institut presented a petition to the Chamber of Deputies in support of Zola. The
second, ultimately victorious phase of the Dreyfusard campaign had begun.
January 18-25: Violent demonstrations and anti-semitic programs in Algiers.
February 20: Durkheim is active in the foundation of the Ligue pour la Defense
des Droits de l'Homme, becoming secretary of the Bordeaux branch.
Durkheim founds l'Année sociologique, including "La Prohibition de l'inceste et
ses origines" in the first issue.
Durkheim publishes "Représentations individuelles et représentations
Durkheim publishes "L'Individualism et les intellectuels."
Espinas publishes his Social Philosophy in the Eighteenth Century and the
1899 September: Completion of Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams.
Founding of the Ligue de la patrie française, which "typified all that was bigoted,
anti-Semitic, and reactionary in public life."
Durkheim publishes "De la définition des phénomènes religieux" in L'Année
1900 April 14: Opening of the Universal Exhibition.
July 19: First section of the métro opened.
Durkheim is one of the main lecturers at the Congress International de
l'éducation Sociale, in the Paris World Fair (Exposition Universelle).
Durkheim publishes "La Sociologie en France au XIXe siècle."
1901 Durkheim publishes the second edition of Les Règles de la méthode
1902 March 24: Formation of the French Socialist Party (PSF).
May 8: Martinique: eruption of Mount Pelée.
Alfred Loisy publishes L'Evangile et l'Eglise.
Durkheim publishes "Sur le totémisme."
Durkheim publishes the second edition of De la division du travail social.
Ferdinand Buisson is elected to the Chamber of Deputies his chair in the Science
of Education at the Sorbonne becomes vacant. After seeking letters from
Boutroux, Buisson, and Victor Brochard, the Council of the Faculty of Letters at
the Sorbonne appoints Durkheim chargé d'un cours by a large majority.
Durkheim gives first lecture - later published as "Pédagogie et sociologie" - of
his course on "L'Education morale."
1903 July: First Tour de France.
With Marcel Mauss, Durkheim publishes "De quelques formes primitives de
classification: contribution à l'étude des représentations collectives."
The death of Renouvier. ; The death of Spencer.
In Britain a Sociological Society was founded and sociological teaching was
begun at the University of London
1904 July 7: Law forbidding all members of religious orders, whether authorized or
not, to teach.
Freud publishes The Psychopathology of Everyday Life in book form.
Levy-Bruhl becomes titular professor of modern philosophy and director of
studies in philosophy.
Creation of the Banque de l'Union Parisienne.
1905 March: Military service reduced to two years.
June 29: 8-hour working day in the mines
July: First federation of Teachers' Trade Unions.
Durkheim publishes "Sur l'organisation matrimoniale des sociétéaustraliennes."
Freud publishes Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality and Jokes and their
Relation to the Unconscious.
The Catholic philosophy journal Revue néo-scolastique published a series of
articles by the Belgian priest Simon Deploige attacking Durkheim's elevation
of "society" to a power superior to that of the individual. Durkheim
responds in a series of letters to the editors.
1906 July 13: Obligatory weekly rest of 24 hours.
December: Purchase of the Western Railway.
Henri Bergson publishes L'Evolution créatrice.
Durkheim publishes "La Détermination du fait moral."
Durkheim is made professeur by a unanimous vote and assumes Buisson's chair.
1908 First International Congress of Psychoanalysis in Salzburg.
The Société française de philosophie holds its séance on Boutroux's La science et
la religion, in which Durkheim participates.
1912 Durkheim publishes Les Formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse.
1913 Marcel Proust publishes Du côté de chez Swan.
Durkheim's hostile review of Deploige's Le Conflit de la morale et la sociologie
in L'Annee sociologique refers to "all we owe to Robertson Smith and to the
works of the ethnographers of England and America."
Durkheim's chair at the Sorbonne is renamed "Science of Education and
1914 March 16: Mme Caillaux kills the editor of Le Figaro.
June 28: Sarajevo assassination.
Law introducing income tax is passed.
July 23: Austrian ultimatum to Serbia.
July 28: Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia.
July 31: German ultimatum to Russian and France.
August 1: General mobilization in France.
August 3: Germany declares war on France.
Freud's two sons, Jean-Martin and Ernst are mobilized in the Austrian Army and
Freud follows the general trend of patriotic enthusiasm.
Freud publishes his Introductory Lectures to Psychoanalysis.
1915 André Durkheim is sent to the Bulgarian front late in the year.
Durkheim publishes Qui a voulu la guerre? Les origines de la guerre d'après les
documents diplomatiques (with E. Denis) and L'Allemagne au-dessus de tout: la
mentalite allemande et la guerre.
1916 January: André Durkheim is declared missing.
April: Durkheim is devastated by news of André's death.
Publication of Lettres à tous les Français (the 1st, 5th, 10th and 11th by
1917 Burying himself all the more in the war effort, Durkheim collapses from a stroke
after speaking at a committee meeting. Relieved by America's entry into the war,
he recovers sufficiently to again take up his work on La Morale; but on
November 15, he dies at the age of 59.
1923 Freud discovers the cancerous plaque in his palate and jaw. His daughter Sophie
and his grandson Heinerle Halberstadt die. Publication of The Ego and the Id.
1930 Freud awarded the Goethe Prize.
1933 Hitler seizes power in Germany.
1934 Freud's books are burned in Berlin.
1938 The Nazis enter Vienna, and Freud finally resigns himself to emigration.
1939 March 13: Lévy-Bruhl dies. September 23: Freud dies.