Against the State-Centered Model of Social Policy: The Moment of Schäffle in the Sociology of Durkheim

Friday, July 18, 2014: 6:30 PM
Room: 313+314
Oral Presentation
Takayoshi RYUO , Yokosuka Nursing School, Japan
Emile Durkheim, one of the founders of sociology, started his academic career in an interdisciplinary struggle.  He refuted Spencer’s self-interest based conception of society in the Division of Labour in Society, and rejected psychological approach for social studies in the Rules of the Sociological Method.  But in order to acquire the institutional independence of sociology from neighbouring intellectual fields, he had to fight in another battlefront other than against economics and psychology, that is against the state-centred model of social policy.

In order to reinterpret the sociology of Durkheim in a broader interdisciplinary context,  focusing on the moment of Schäffle is a helpful clue.  Albert Schäffle was a German Staatswissenschaftler, economist, forerunner of sociology, and staunch opponent of authoritarian socialism.  Durkheim reviewed the main work of Schäffle, the Construction and Life of the Social Body in his earliest academic article, and endorsed Schäffle’s attack against state-directed socialism thereafter such as in the Suicide and the preface to the second edition of the Division.  The protest against the hypertrophic tendency of state bureaucracy is not a mere manifestation of political adherence of Durkheim, but a careful strategy to define sociology as a distinctive science in the light of historical and intellectual circumstances of the epoch.

That was the time Durkheim was contending for sociology when French government embarked on implementing modern social policies.  By contrast to free market policy favoured in the 1880s, the turn of the century France welcomed state-led intervention measures originated from Imperial Germany under Bismarck.  The concern of Durkheim over the state-centered model of social policy and his alarm for the peril of individual liberty under the authoritarian regime is a theoretical response to the ongoing transformation of the state and society and to the state-oriented social thought at the time in France.