Durkheim and Postmodern Culture
The present work is an elaboration of the author's previous efforts in Emile Durkheim and the Reformation of Sociology (1988) and The Coming Fin de SiÞcle (1991) to demonstrate Durkheim's neglected relevance to the postmodern discourse. The aims include finding affinities between our fin de siÞcle and Durkheim's fin de siÞcle, and connecting the contemporary themes of rebellion against Enlightenment narratives found in postmodern culture with similar concerns found in Durkheim's sociology as well as in his fin de siÞcle culture, contributing to Durkheimian scholarship as well as to the postmodern discourse. The distinctive aspects of the present study flow from the focus on culture, communication, and the feminine voice in culture. Durkheim is approached as a fin de siÞcle student of culture, and his insights applied to our fin de siÞcle culture. Furthermore, because Durkheim claimed that culture is comprised primarily of collective representations, he was a forerunner of the current, postmodern concerns with communication. Because Durkheim shall be read in the context of his fin de siÞcle, this book shall lead to the conclusion that Durkheim was a kind of psychoanalyst such that society is the patient, culture comprises the symptoms, and the sociologist must decipher, decode, and even deconstruct collective representations. Yet, the Durkheimian deconstruction proposed here is unlike the postmodern deconstructions, which criticize and tear apart a text without substituting a better meaning or interpretation. Postmodern discourse has made respectable again the synthesis of multidisciplinary insights that was fashionable in Durkheim's fin de siÞcle. In following this postmodern strategy, this book is more than a book about Durkheim. It is also a book about his contemporaries, among them, Carl Justav Jung, Thorstein Veblen, Henry Adams, Georg Simmel, and Max Weber. The author does not follow the postmodern strategy completely, because he finds common strands that bind these and other thinkers and their theories. Stjepan G. MeÜtrovic was born in Zagreb, Croatia, and is professor of sociology at Texas A & M University. Widely published in scholarly journals, he is the author of Emile Durkheim and the Reformation of Sociology (1988), The Coming Fin de SiÞcle, and Genocide After Emotion: The Postemotional Balkan War.
“Mestrovi'c argues that in its assertion that contemporary existence is dominated by the circulation of fictions and signs that have no foundations, origins, or permanence, postmodernism undercuts its viability by treating all objective ground and reference points necessary for communication and social life as unequivocally oppressive… To make his case, Mestrovi'c severely critiques the functionalist misinterpretation of Durkheim as a positivist and social engineer of the status quo and instead argues for a contextual reading of Durkheim that takes into account the Shopenhaurian philosophy and influences of Jacob Bachofen that permeated the spirit of the period. The result is a provocative interpretation in which Durkheim is seen as offering society itself, as a manifestation of the will to life, as the ground or referent for the symbolism that constitutes communication and social life, albeit one that is dynamic and thereby not guilty of sins of modernism and its search for permanent truths and natural laws. Graduate; faculty.”
—M. F. Keen, Choice