UPSC SOCIOLOGY – Paper 2 – SOCIOLOGICAL THINKERS – Chapter 4 – Emile Durkheim- Division of labour, social fact, suicide, religion and society.
- Durkheim evolved a functional explanation for the existence of religion in the world.
- He observed its existence as a social fact and not as a supernatural phenomenon.
- He gave the idea of religion in his work, Elementary Forms Of Religious Life 1912.
DEFINITION BY DURKHEIM
- Religion – A unified system of beliefs and practices related to sacred things, that is to say – things set apart and forbidden, beliefs and practices, which you need them into a single moral community, for all those who adhere to them.
EXPLANATION OF THE DEFINITION
- Beliefs – A unified system of ideas which explain the sacred, they constitute of myths, spiritual ideas, ethical code, etc.
- Practices – Rites or rituals explaining individuals behaviour towards the sacred.
- Positive rites – Bring individual and sacred together and are easier to perform, like worship.
- Negative rites – Help in maintaining the distance between the two ( individual and sacred) and keep them separated, for example, fasting and sacrifice.
SACRED AND PROFANE
- Society consists of two parts – the sacred and the profane.
• Things which are set apart and are forbidden.
• It includes all things which are connected to the supernatural or the divine.
• Relationship of distance and fear is maintained with the respect to these things.
• Profane are the things apart from the sacred.
• Includes day-to-day things which people use in their lives.
- In this, totems are worshipped.
- Totem is a representation of the clan itself.
- He drew his analysis from the study of religious practices among Arunta, the Australian aboriginals.
- Primitive men, when they came together for some purpose like festivals and interacted on such occasions, they felt the energy of social force.
- According to primitive logic, they explain this feeling in terms of presence of some supernatural force.
- Durkheim calls this height and feeling of energy generated in collective gatherings as state of exaltation or collective effervescence.
- These higher forces are deemed as divine or supernatural and attributed to certain totems by the primitive tribes.
- They create a totem to represent and regain that feeling.
- The totems are the material representations of the non-material force that is at their base and that non-material force is none other than the society itself.
- The feeling which was due to the feeling of being together, was instead, interpreted as The Sacred.So, totem is a symbol of collectivity or the symbol of society itself.
RELIGION AND SOCIETY
- Durkheim asks ‘If it is at once the symbol of God and Society, is it not because God and Society are one and same’?
- Religious experiences are real experiences of social forces, forces that unite us.
- Social obligations are represented in sacred terms and hence transform into religious duties. Eg: Marriage becomes a sacrament.
- Religion is also a social fact.
- It performs the function of bringing people together.
- The dichotomy of profane and sacred is not absolute and there can be ‘things’ also as per William Edward Stanner.
- Durkheim did not explain why a particular totem is chosen.
- Criticized for being an armchair theory.
- Generalisation of primitive religion to modern sophisticated religion is a farfetched view.
- Scholars argue that it is not religion but secularism which is binding the societies together in modern industrialised societies.
- Fails to explain the cause of solidarity in multicultural polytheistic societies like India.
- Focused only on functional aspects and ignored the conflict caused by religion.