, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 263-284

Durkheim's contribution to the sociological analysis of history

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Emile Durkheim has long been viewed as one of the founders of the so-called variables-oriented approach to sociological investigation. This view ignores his considerable achievements using the methodology of “case-based” historical analysis, most prominent among them, his lectures on the history of French education (The Evolution of Educational Thought).In this paper I first outline the intimate relationship that Durkheim envisioned between historical and sociological investigation. I then turn to his work on French education for substantive illustrations of his approach. Finally, I explore certain points of intersection between Durkheim's approach to history and present-day concerns, especially in regard to the role of culture in history and the opposition between prospective and retrospective (“teleological”) strategies of historical analysis.