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The transcendence of the social: Durkheim, Weismann, and the purification of sociology

Meloni, Maurizio 2016, The transcendence of the social: Durkheim, Weismann, and the purification of sociology, Frontiers in sociology, vol. 1, pp. 1-13, doi: 10.3389/fsoc.2016.00011.

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Title The transcendence of the social: Durkheim, Weismann, and the purification of sociology
Author(s) Meloni, Maurizio
Journal name Frontiers in sociology
Volume number 1
Article ID 11
Start page 1
End page 13
Total pages 13
Publisher Frontiers Media
Place of publication Lausanne, Switzerland
Publication date 2016-07
ISSN 2297-7775
Keyword(s) Durkheim
Weismann
hard heredity
Lamarckism
sociology
biology
purification
boundary-work
Summary Building on Fox Keller’s acute genealogy of the nature–nurture opposition as located in a certain specific social, cultural, and political history in the late nineteenth century (2010), in this paper, I address a parallel problem: the making of a really modern (i.e., non-biological) sociology nearly at the same time as the “hard disjunction” (Keller, 2010) between heredity and the environment, nature and nurture, was made. I argue rather provocatively that traces of borrowing from hard heredity to sociology can be seen in Durkheim’s strategic usage of Weismann to destroy Lamarckian sociology. The transcendence of the social in Durkheim is entirely isomorphic to Weismann’s transcendence of the germ plasm: in both cases, they aimed to construct objective realities, radically independent and exterior from individual tendencies and peculiarities. Weismann offered Durkheim an important scientific companion to make boundaries between sociology and biology. In a Latourian sense (Latour, 1993), the purification strategy of Durkheim was actually helped by a hybridization with Weismann’s biology. In conclusion, by taking Weismann as an anticipator of the genetics revolution a few years later, I argue for a profound complicity between twentieth century non-biological sociology and genetics. They both made space for a neat distinction between biological heredity and sociocultural transmission, heredity, and heritage. If sociology and genetics thought of themselves as rivals and even enemies in explaining social facts, they should reconsider their positions.
Language eng
DOI 10.3389/fsoc.2016.00011
Field of Research 160806 Social Theory
160808 Sociology and Social Studies of Science and Technology
220206 History and Philosophy of Science (incl Non-Historical Philosophy of Science)
Socio Economic Objective 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
Copyright notice ©2016, Meloni
Free to Read? Yes
Use Rights Creative Commons Attribution licence
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30107778

Document type: Journal Article
Collections: Faculty of Arts and Education
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Every reasonable effort has been made to ensure that permission has been obtained for items included in DRO. If you believe that your rights have been infringed by this repository, please contact drosupport@deakin.edu.au.