Surveying the role of the European Union (EU) in relation to climate change policy is no easy task. Both have been in the course of evolution for the past several decades. Worries about the risks posed by climate change date back some thirty years within the Union, as the contributors to this important volume show. They distinguish a number of main phases of policy development, beginning in the 1980s, the time at which initial anxieties, prompted by scientific findings, emerged. Over that period, however, the EU itself changed massively, from a group of nine nations to one incorporating twenty-seven Member States.
These changes have been very mixed in their consequences. The EU countries now have a population of some 480 million, and the Union wields considerable economic might. It stretches almost to the borders of Russia and adjoins the Middle East. A number of countries at the margins of the EU have declared their intention to seek to join up, including Turkey, which has formally been recognised as an accession country. Yet enlargement has been far from plain sailing. Rules and procedures of governance designed for a small number of Member States have come under great strain.
Decision-making has become correspondingly more difficult and cumbersome. New divisions among Member States have opened up: for example, the former Eastern European countries mostly have a more fearful and jaundiced view of Russia than those from what used to be Western Europe.
My starting point in this discussion is a world that has taken us by surprise. By ‘us’ I mean not only observing intellectuals and practical policymakers, but the ordinary individual too. In the West at least we are all the legatees of certain strands of Enlightenment thought. The Enlightenment was a complex affair. Various different perspectives of thought were bound up with it and the works of the leading Enlightenment philosophers were often complex and subtle. Yet in general the philosophers of Enlightenment set themselves against tradition, against prejudice and against obscurantism. For them the rise of science, both natural and social, would disclose the reality of things.
Understanding was always itself understood as an unfinished and partial affair – the expansion of knowledge is at the same time an awareness of ignorance, of everything that is not and perhaps will not be known. Nevertheless, knowledge was presumed to be cumulative and presumed also to yield a progressive mastery of the surrounding world. The more we are able to understand ourselves, our own history and the domain of nature, the more we will be able to master them for our own purposes and in our own interests. The underlying theorem, stripped bare, was extremely plausible. The progress of well-founded knowledge is more or less the same as the progressive expansion of human dominion (Giddens, 1990).
Marx brought this view its clearest expression, integrating it with an interpretation of the overall thrust of history itself.
Reasoned criticism is the life-blood of any scholarly discipline. Most people, whatever their level of commitment to their intellectual endeavours, probably find it easier to provide criticism rather than to receive it. But everyone working in an academic milieu must be prepared to be the subject of critique as well as offering critical appraisals of the writings of others. Of course, criticism can be shrill and dismissive, in which case it may very easily block rather than further the debates upon which the evaluation of ideas depend. I am fortunate indeed that all the contributors to this volume have produced critical assessments of my writings which, hard-hitting though some of them are, form positive contributions to discussion of the position and prospects of the social sciences. Few authors are privileged enough to be the subject of such sympathetic, yet exhaustive, examination from their critics, and I am grateful to all of the contributors for the diligence with which they have pursued their inquiries. I hope I can respond with the same degree of competence and seriousness of intent which they have displayed.
The chapters of this book range over many issues, and raise a diversity of objections to my views. If I were to reply to every point made, the result would inevitably be a quite superficial survey – or would result in a work as long as all the chapters put together. Instead of adopting such a tactic, I shall concentrate upon themes which one or more contributors have made central to their papers, and try to deal in at least some depth with the major questions posed.
In recent years, there have been major changes in social theory in the English-speaking world. What could be called the old ‘orthodox consensus’ in the social sciences was dominated by the pre-eminence of functionalism on the level of methodology, and positivism on the level of epistemology. These ideas never went unquestioned, of course, but in past years they have come under increasing attack – so much so that they certainly no longer reign as an orthodoxy, but have become substantially discredited. One of the results of these events has been a new convergence between the social sciences and philosophy. Indeed, as John Thompson points out, some of those authors who have written under the influence of recent trends in ordinary language philosophy have advanced the view that social science can be regarded as ‘a conceptual extension of philosophy’. This is not a position which Thompson accepts, but he does acknowledge the significance of the contributions that such authors have made to pressing issues in social theory at the current juncture.
In the first part of his book, Thompson analyses these contributions in a concise and elegant way. He concentrates his attention upon three main areas of analysis: problems of action, interpretation and truth. In each of these areas, ordinary language philosophy is shown to have encountered a cluster of unresolved difficulties.
REPRESSIVE SANCTIONS AND MECHANICAL SOLIDARITY
The link of social solidarity to which repressive law corresponds is one whose break constitutes a crime; we give this name to every act which, in any degree whatever, evokes against its author the characteristic reaction which we term ‘punishment’. To seek the nature of this link is thus to ask what is the cause of punishment, or, more precisely what crime essentially consists in…
… an act is criminal when it offends strong and defined states of the conscience collective. The statement of this proposition is rarely disputed, but it is ordinarily given a sense very different from that which it ought to have. We take it as if it expressed, not the essential property of crime, but one of its repercussions. We well know that crime violates very general and intense sentiments; but we believe that this generality and intensity derive from the criminal character of the act, which consequently remains to be defined. We do not deny that every delict is universally condemned, but we take as agreed that the condemnation to which it is subjected results from its delinquent character. Then, however, we are hard put to say in what its delinquent character consists. Is it to be found in an especially serious transgression? Perhaps so; but that is simply to restate the question by putting one word in place of another, for it is precisely the problem to understand what this transgression is, and particularly this specific transgression which society reproves by means of organised punishment and which constitutes criminality.
The reception of Durkheim's work has been considerably affected by the uneven manner in which his writings have appeared in published form. In his lifetime, he published four major books – De la division du travail social, Les règies de la méthode sociologique, Le suicide, and Les formes élémentaires de la vie religieuse – as well as various shorter monographs and numerous articles and reviews. But no fewer than five additional works, consisting of lectures which he prepared for the various courses which he taught at different points in his career, have appeared posthumously: L'éducation morale (1925), Le socialisme (1928), L'évolution pédagogique en France (1938), Leçons de sociologie (1950) and Pragmatisme et sociologie (1955). Only one of the first four books (Les formes élémentaires) was translated into English while he was alive: the others followed at long intervals. None of the latter group of works appeared in English until very recently, and two still await translation. Thus although his ideas have exerted a very extensive influence in the English-speaking world, they have been subject to frequent misrepresentations and distortions.
The present book is the first to provide a comprehensive set of selections from the whole corpus of Durkheim's writings. All of the selections are newly translated, regardless of whether or not they have previously appeared in English. When planning the book initially, I intended to include sections from existing translations, where available. But in comparing these with the originals it became apparent that some contained numerous dubious or erroneous renderings, and consequently I decided to offer a fresh set of translations.
DEFINITION OF POLITICAL SOCIETY AND THE STATE
An essential element that enters into any notion of a ‘political’ group is the opposition between governing and governed, between authority and those subject to it. It is quite possible that in the initial stages of social development this distinction may not have existed; such an hypothesis is all the more likely since we do find societies in which the distance between the two is barely perceptible. But in any case, the societies where it is found must not be confused with those where it does not occur. The former differ from the latter in type, and require different terms of description: we should keep the word ‘political’ for the first category. For if this expression has any meaning, it implies primarily the existence of some kind of organisation, however rudimentary; it implies an established power – which may be stable or fluctuating, weak or strong – to whose action individuals are subject, whatever it may be.
But a power of this type is not found solely in political societies. The family may have a head, with powers which are sometimes absolute in character, and sometimes restrained by those of a family council. The patriarchal family of the Romans has often been compared to a state in miniature. Although, as we shall see below, this expression is not justified, we could not object to it if the only distinguishing feature of the political society were the existence of a governmental structure. So we must look for some further characteristic.
THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF MORALITY
There is not a single system of ethics which has not developed from an initial idea in which its entire development was contained implicitly. Some believe that man possesses that idea at birth. Others, by contrast, believe that it evolves more or less slowly in the course of history. But for both schools of thought, for empiricists as well as for rationalists, this idea is the sole reality in ethics. As for the details of legal and moral rules, these are treated as if they had no existence in their own right but were merely applications of this fundamental notion to the particular circumstances of life, varied somewhat to suit the different cases. Hence, the subject-matter of the science of ethics cannot be this system of precepts, which has no reality, but must be the idea from which the precepts are derived and of which they are only diverse applications. Furthermore, all the problems ordinarily raised in ethics refer not to things but to ideas. Moralists examine the idea of law, or the ethical idea, not the nature of law and ethics. They have not yet arrived at the very simple truth that, as our representations of physical things are derived from these things themselves and express them more or less exactly, so our idea of ethics derives from the observable manifestation of the rules that are functioning under our eyes and reproduces this schematically. It follows that these rules, and not our schematic idea of them, should be the subject-matter of science, just as actual physical bodies, and not the layman's idea of them, constitute the subject-matter of physics.
REASON, ART AND MORAL OBLIGATION
Let us suppose that [a science of moral facts] has been perfected. Our ascendancy is culminated: we are masters of the moral order. It is no longer external to us, since from this point on we conceive of it in terms of a system of clear and distinct ideas whose relationships we understand. Now we are in a position to ascertain the extent to which the moral order is founded in the nature of things – that is, in the nature of society – which is to say to what extent it is what it ought to be. In the degree that we see it as such, we can freely consent to it. For to wish that it be other than is implied by the natural make-up of the reality that it expresses would be to talk nonsense under the pretext of free will. We can also see to what extent it is not based on the order of things, for it is always possible that it may involve abnormal elements. But then we should have available, thanks to the same science we are supposing to be established, the means of restoring it to a normal state. Thus, on condition of having adequate knowledge of moral precepts, of their causes and of their functions, we are in a position to conform to them, but consciously and knowing why. Conformity which has thus been assented to is no longer a constraint.
MAIN THEMES IN DURKHEIM'S WRITINGS
The Division of Labour in Society
Durkheim is ordinarily regarded, in the English-speaking world, at least, as one of the founders of modern ‘empirical’ sociology: as a writer whose works played a leading role in the transformation of sociology from a speculative, philosophical endeavour into a clearly-bounded discipline firmly planted in the controlled observation of empirical reality. This, indeed, represented one of Durkheim's most frequently stated ambitions. But he never lost sight of broader philosophical questions, and held that it should be one of the functions of sociology to throw new light upon old philosophical debates. As he himself wrote: ‘Having begun from philosophy, I tend to return to it; or rather I have been quite naturally brought back to it by the nature of the questions which I met with on my route.’
Durkheim's earliest writings are rooted in an attempt to establish a critique of two major streams of social thought (which, of course, embodied numerous, complex and overlapping subdivisions), namely that formed by political economy, and utilitarian philosophy more generally, on the one hand, and that represented by the various schools of ‘idealist holism’ on the other. The latter tradition, at least in Durkheim's treatment of it in his early writings, includes various apparently discrepant sorts of social thought – such as, for example, that of Comte, and of German authors such as Schmoller and Schaffle. What such writers as these shared in common, as it seemed to Durkheim, is the assumption, either implicit or explicit, that the positive valence of moral ‘ideals’ provides the major impetus to the evolution of human society.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF SOCIOLOGY
A science which has only just come into existence necessarily has at the outset only an uncertain and ill-defined sense of the area of reality that it is about to approach, of its extent and its limits. It can gain a clearer picture only to the degree that it acquires a procedure to guide its research; and the heightened awareness of its subject matter that it obtains in this way is of the greatest importance. For the task of the scientist is the more secure the more orderly it becomes; and the more methodical it is, the more accurate is the account that he can render of the territory he is penetrating.
Sociology has reached the stage at which it is opportune to make every effort to bring about such an advance. If some reactionary critics, inadvertently influenced by the prejudice which always hinders the formation of a new science, reproach sociology for not knowing the precise subject-matter with which it intends to deal, they can be told that such ignorance is inevitable in the early phases of research, and that our science came into being only very recently. It must not be forgotten, especially in view of the popularity of sociology today, that fifteen years ago it would scarcely have been possible to enumerate as many as ten individuals who could, properly speaking, be called ‘sociologists’. We must add to this that it is asking too much of a science to define its subject-matter with excessive precision, for the part of reality that it intends to study is never precisely separated from others.
THOUGHT AND REALITY
…even the most primitive religions are not, as is sometimes believed, merely phantasies that have no basis in reality. Certainly they do not express the things of the physical world as they are; they have little value as an explanation of reality. But they do interpret, in a symbolic form, social needs and collective interests. They represent the various connections maintained by society with the individuals who make it up as well as with the things forming part of its substance. And these connections and interests are real. It is through religion that we are able to trace the structure of a society, the stage of unity it has reached and the degree of cohesion of its parts, besides the expanse of the area it inhabits, the nature of the cosmic forces that play a vital role in it, etc. Religions are the primitive way in which societies become conscious of themselves and their history. They are to the social order what sensation is to the individual. We might ask why it is these religions distort things as they do in their processes of imagery. But is it not true that sensation, equally, distorts the things it conveys to the individual? Sound, colour and temperature do not exist in the world any more than gods, demons or spirits do. By the fact alone that the representation presupposes a subject who thinks – (in one case, an individual, in the other, a collective subject) – the nature of this subject is a factor in the representation and distorts the thing represented.
EDUCATION AND SOCIETY
…every society sets up a certain ideal of man, of what he should be, as much from the intellectual point of view as the physical and moral. This ideal is, in some degree, the same for all members of society; but it also becomes differentiated beyond a certain point, according to the specific groupings that every society contains in its structure. It is this ideal, which is both integral and diverse, that is the focus of education. Its function, then, is to develop in the child: (1) a certain number of physical and mental states that the society to which he belongs considers should be possessed by all of its members; (2) certain physical and mental states that the particular social group (caste, class, family, profession) similarly considers ought to be possessed by all those who compose it. Thus both society as a whole and each particular social grouping determine the ideal that education realises. Society can survive only if there exists among its members a sufficient degree of homogeneity; education perpetuates and reinforces this homogeneity by fixing in the mind of the child, from the beginning, the essential similarities that social life demands. But on the other hand, without a certain diversity all co-operation would be impossible; education ensures the persistence of this necessary diversity by being itself diversified and specialised. If the society has reached a degree of development whereby the old divisions into castes and classes can no longer be maintained, it will prescribe an education more uniform at its base.
THE PROBLEM OF ANOMIE
The totality of moral rules truly forms about each person an imaginary wall, at the foot of which the flood of human passions simply dies without being able to go further. For the same reason – that they are contained – it becomes possible to satisfy them. But if at any point this barrier weakens, these previously restrained human forces pour tumultuously through the open breach; once loosed they find no limits where they can stop. They can only devote themselves, without hope of satisfaction, to the pursuit of an end that always eludes them. For example, if the rules of the conjugal morality lose their authority, and the mutual obligations of husband and wife become less respected, the emotions and appetites ruled by this sector of morality will become unrestricted and uncontained, and accentuated by this very release; powerless to fulfil themselves because they have been freed from all limitations, these emotions will produce a disillusionment which manifests itself visibly in the statistics of suicide. In the same way, should the morality governing economic life be shaken, and the search for gain become excited and inflamed beyond bounds, then one would observe a rise in the annual quota of suicides. One could multiply such examples. Furthermore, it is because morality has the function of limiting and containing that too much wealth so easily becomes a source of immorality. Through the power wealth confers on us, it actually diminishes the power of things to oppose us. Consequently, it lends strength to our desires and makes it harder to hold them in check.
THE CONCEPTION OF RELIGION
[Written in review of Guyau's L'irréligion de l'avenir.]
For the author religion derives from a double source: firstly, the need to understand; and secondly, from sociability. We would say, at the outset, that these factors should be inverted, and that sociability should be made the determining cause of religious sentiment. Men did not begin by imagining gods; it is not because they conceived of them in a given fashion that they became bound to them by social feelings. They began by linking themselves to the things which they made use of, or which they suffered from, in the same way as they linked each of these to the other – without reflection, without the least kind of speculation. The theory only came later, in order to explain and make intelligible to these rudimentary minds the modes of behaviour which had thus been formed. Since these sentiments were quite similar to those which he observed in his relationships with his fellows, man conceived of these natural powers as beings comparable to himself; and since at the same time they differed amongst themselves, he attributed to these exceptional beings distinctive qualities which made them gods. Religious ideas thus result from the interpretation of pre-existing sentiments and, in order to study religion, we must penetrate to these sentiments, avoiding the ideas which are only the symbol and surface expression of these.
But there are two sorts of social sentiments. The first bind each individual to the person of his fellow-citizens: these are manifest within the community, in the day-to-day relationships of life.
THE STUDY OF SOCIALISM
We can conceive of two very different ways of studying socialism. We can see it as a scientific doctrine on the nature and evolution of societies in general and, more specifically, of the most advanced contemporary societies. In this case, the analysis which we make does not differ from that to which scholars submit the theories and hypotheses of their respective sciences. It is considered abstractly, outside of time, space, and future history, not as a fact the origins of which we seek to discover, but as a system of propositions which express or are deemed to express reality; we then ask what is its truth or falsity, whether or not it corresponds to social reality, in what measure it is self-consistent, and conforms to things as they are…This will not be our point of view. The reason for this is that without diminishing in any way the importance of our interest in socialism, we cannot accord it a fully scientific character. In fact, ‘research’ only deserves to be called by that name if it has a definite and real subject-matter, which it simply aims to translate into intelligible language. Science is a study bearing on a delimited portion of reality which it aims at knowing and, if possible, understanding. To describe and explain what is and what has been – this is its sole task. Speculation about the future is not its concern, although it may ultimately seek to make this possible.
Whenever any elements combine and, by the fact of their combination produce new phenomena, it is evident that these phenomena are not given in the elements, but in the totality formed by their union. The living cell contains nothing but mineral particles, just as society contains nothing but individuals; it is obviously impossible, however, for the phenomena characteristic of life to exist in the atoms of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen. For how could the properties of life exist within inanimate elements? How, moreover, would the biological properties be divided among these elements? These properties could not exist equally in all the elements because the latter are different in nature; carbon is not nitrogen and consequently can neither possess the same properties nor have the same role. It is similarly inadmissible that each of the principal aspects or characteristics of life be manifest in a different group of atoms. Life could not thus be subdivided; it is a unity, and consequently its basis be only the living substance in its totality. It is in the whole, not in the parts. The inanimate particles of the cell do not feed themselves, reproduce – in a word, live – only the cell itself can do so. What we say of life could be repeated for any type of compound. The hardness of bronze is not in the copper nor in the tin, nor the lead, which served to create it, and which are soft and malleable bodies; it is in their mixture.
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