The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life

Émile Durkheim

The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, by Émile Durkheim - click to see full size image

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The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life by Émile Durkheim is a seminal work in sociology that examines the origins and functions of religion in society. Published in 1912, the book explores the origins and functions of religion, using totemism among Australian Aboriginal tribes as a case study. Durkheim defines religion as a unified system of beliefs and practices concerning the sacred, which unites followers into a moral community. He examines totemism, where clans identify with sacred symbols like animals or objects, which reinforce clan unity. Central to his theory is the concept of collective effervescence, where communal rituals generate shared emotional experiences, strengthening social bonds. Durkheim distinguishes between the sacred and the profane, asserting that religion's primary role is to reinforce social solidarity and cohesion by promoting shared values and norms. He argues that religious beliefs stem from collective societal experiences, projecting society's power onto external symbols. Critiquing earlier theories like animism and naturism, Durkheim emphasizes the social dimensions of religious phenomena, highlighting religion's foundational role in maintaining social order and cohesion.

This book has 200,974 words, 284 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1912. This translation by Joseph Ward Swain was first published in 1915.

Production notes: This ebook of The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life was published by Global Grey on the 9th July 2024. The artwork used for the cover is 'The Procession to Calvary' by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

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