Social Conscience Essay

Essay Emile Durkheim and the Collective Conscience

1109 WordsSep 19th, 20135 Pages

Emile Durkheim and the Collective Conscience Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) was a French sociologist who strongly influenced the discipline of sociology. It was apparent to Durkheim that since the French Revolution, the nation had been wracked by conflict and moral crisis (Stones, 2008). At the individual level, rising suicide rates reflected a growing sense of malaise. Durkheim’s goal was to develop a sociology that would help France overcome this continuing moral crisis. By tracing the influences on Durkheim to his predecessor August Comte and the German scholars of experimental psychology, it is possible to understand how Durkheim came to the conclusion that society is greater than the individual, and how his idea of a collective…show more content…

In contrast, individuals who populate any society are eminently social beings guided by moral rules. Pope and Johnson (1983) state that Durkheim proposed that society revitalizes individuals and gives them strength to persevere in the face of the vicissitudes of everyday life. Stones (2008), further states that Durkheim felt that we acquired all the best in ourselves and all the things that distinguish us from other animals from our social existence. Thought, language, world-views, rationality, morality and aspirations are derived from society. Thus, the unsocialised individual, the individual divorced form society, the beast within us, is a poor approximation of the highly socialised beings that constitute societies. The importance of social factors over the individual can also be seen in Durkheim’s work on suicide (Stones, 2008). Suicide was explained in terms of two independent variables, integration in society and regulation by society. Low levels of integration led to egoistic suicide, while low levels of regulation led to anomic suicide. Durkheim cited egoism and anomie as the main causes of suicide in the modern world; a world which he believed showed less interaction and people thinking more about themselves than others. As a result, people are less bound to one another, there is less community and social control is weaker (Stones, 2008). Durkheim applied his

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Du Bois, William E.B. "The Individual and Social Conscience" [Originally Untitled]. Pp. 53-55 in Religious Education Association, The Aims of Religious Education. The Proceedings of the Third Annual Convention of the Religious Education Association, Boston, February 12-16, 1905. Chicago: Executive Office of the Religious Education Association, 1905.

Online Sources:
1. The entire Proceedings is available for online viewing or downloading at Google Books: start page of DuBois's piece. (Other digitized versions: one ; two).

2. At the Hathi Trust Digital Library one can specifically read Du Bois's work (start page) or else view the entire Proceedingsonline.

3. Read online or access the complete volume in several file formats at the Internet Archive: download page.

Robert Williams' Notes:
1. During the Third Annual Convention of the Religious Education Association (R.E.A.), which was held in Boston in February 1905, DuBois was a discussant for a themed session entitled "How Can We Develop in the Individual a Social Conscience?" Three papers were presented, and Du Bois was listed as the second of three discussants (TOC: p.v; also see p.466 for a summary of the session during which Du Bois participated). The three papers were delivered by Arthur S. Hoyt ("Literature as an Expression of Social Ideals"), John Merle Coulter ("Science as a Teacher of Morality"), and Henry Smith Pritchett ("The Ethical Education of Public Opinion"). In the Proceedings of the Convention, within a section marked as "Discussion", Du Bois' contribution was published.

2. Atlanta University President Horace Bumstead described the background and purposes of Du Bois's trip to Boston in his article entitled, "Dr. Du Bois in Boston", which was published in The Bulletin of Atlanta University (Nr. 153; March 1905; pp.2-3). Via the Digital Collection of Robert W. Woodruff Library, Atlanta University Center, this issue is accessible online.

3. A few periodicals mentioned Du Bois's participation at the 1905 R.E.A. conference and several even commented on his role. For example, in an effort to dispel negative stereotypes, the Reverend Amory Bradford wrote the following:
The best authorities say that the most cultured address at the recent convention in Boston for promoting religious education was by Professor DuBois, of Atlanta University. It has been described as a model of condensed and finished English style, and Professor DuBois is a colored man.[sic]
Source: Bradford, Amory H. 1905. "Hopeful, Not Hopeless." The American Missionary, 59:4 (April): 105- 108, at p.107

4. I have analyzed "The Individual and Social Conscience"  (IASC) in the following essay:

Williams, R.W. & W.E.B. Du Bois. "'The Sacred Unity in All the Diversity': The Text and a Thematic Analysis of W.E.B. Du Bois's 'The Individual and Social Conscience' (1905)." Journal of African American Studies, 16:3 (September): 456-497.
[Initially published via "Online First" (SpringerLink), March 2011.]

This website has a final version in a pre-publication format (PDF).

5. The IASC as a Digital Humanities Project:
5.1. I developed Retextualizer as an application to digitally interact with an author's works. By randomly rearranging the text it is possible to garner new insights.
5.2. The IASC retextualized:
5.3. I added this note on 1 October 2016.

6. Editorial comments:
6.1. The text reproduced below was untitled in its original publication within the 1905 Religious Education Association conference proceedings.
6.2. Paragraph numbers were added in order to facilitate referencing.
6.3. The punctuation, capitalization, and spelling of the original have been retained (ex., "Negro" was not capitalized).
6.4. Du Bois's name and institutional affiliation were printed in capital letters, with the latter being in a smaller size font.
6.5. The quotation at the end of the text originated in an epigraph to the essay "History" by Ralph Waldo Emerson. See my note below.
6.6. What follows below is Du Bois' discussant work rendered verbatim and in its entirety.
Robert W. Williams, Ph.D.  [Bio] 

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