Professional Ethics and Civic Morals


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We have tried to fulfil this condition demanded by every science. It must be very clear that we have studied social solidarity through the system of juridical rules; how, in the search for causes, we have set aside all that might be too much aflfected by a personal view or by subjective appraisal, so that we might get at certain facts of social structure that lie deep enough to qualify as objects of comprehension and hence, of science.

XLII A few pages further on, we read more explicitly still: "Social solidar- ity is an entirely moral phenomenon which in itself docs not yield to precise observation or, above all, to any m.

Professional Ethics and Civic Morals (Routledge Classics in Sociology)

To arrive at this classification and this comparison, we must substitute for the inward fact that escapes us an exterior fact that stands as a symbol for it, and study the first by way of the second. This visible symbol is the law. In fact, wherever there is social solidarity, in spite of its immaterial nature it does not X'X Introduction remain in a state of pure potentiality but manifests its presence by effects perceptible to the senses. The more solidarity there is amongst the members of a society, the more they maintain various relations, whether it be one with another, or with the group collectively.

For if they seldom came together, they would depend on one another only in a tenuous and fitful way. These relations, on the other hand, are inevitably in pro- portion to the juridical rules that determine them. The life in general of the society cannot extend at any point without its juridical life extending at the same time and in the same ratio.

We may therefore be certain of finding all the essential varieties of social solidarity reflected in the law. This leads to the conclusion: — "Our method therefore lies mapped out. Since we find the main forms of social solidarity reproduced in the law, we have only to classify the various types of law to find the various types of social solidarity corresponding to them. Hence it is probable that there is a type which is a symbol of that particular solidarity of which the division of labour is the cause.

As we see, to get objectivity, we have to substitute in place of the idea we form of things in the abstract, the reality that experience and history oblige us to recognize as being due to them. So in this way only will sociology escape building on abstractions and will scrupulously heed all the ties with what is real, as revealed to it by studying the nature of morals. Such are the links, as seen in these lectures, between professional ethics and economic evolution, between civic morals and the structure of the State, and between the morals of contractual relations and the juridico-social structure in all its variability.

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Such also — as in the lectures still unpublished — are the ties which link family sentiments and obligations to the variable forms of the family, and which link these in turn to the diverse structures of societies. In short, we have solidarity, the value attached to the person, the State, classes, property, contract, XX Introduction exchange, corporation, family, responsibility, etc. In face of these phenomena, let us keep clear not only of any arbitrary inter- pretations, but of a too facile and tempting approximation that seems to account for the phenomena from the start either a priori or by those supposed constants in human nature, instinct and need.

Reference to a nature which seems to protect us from the arbitrary is not enough to give us a true objectivity. Whilst nature gives form, history transforms. Observation serves us only from an angle of what is relative and when it places the fact observed within its own conditions of existence. That setting, like nature indeed, includes compatibilities and incompatibilities, upon which the balance and play of the function depend.

But this balance itself is but a stage in the act of becoming, and the adaptation of the function is not obtained from the start or amenable to the interpretation on horizontal lines alone through the environment or ambience of that particular moment. The function is given preparation by sequences in time on vertical lines.

Professional Ethics and Civic Morals by Émile Durkheim

The given social reality, which we should not construct but observe as a thing, must therefore be observed in experience as well as in history. It is the working of the function alone which may be observed in the actual present. But the working of the function is not the function, any more than the function is nature. These three elements are distinct and all three are to be observed as assumed to be within time, and, let us repeat without any ambiguity, are to be "treated as things". This, then, is required by the theme of science, that we described as demanding the method of sociology.

But the theme of 'the social' which posits its existence also has its demands. It remains to be seen if and how these may be reconciled with those of science. The claims of science that forbid any crossing of the bounds of immanence, by that very fact favour the concept of the 'normal', as distinct from that of the 'pathological', and this concept of the normal by force of this difference can serve as a xxi Introduction criterion to weigh the reality observed. One even sees this notion of the normal fact or type being substituted for the notion of the ideal or what-ought-to-be, and being presented as suitable to govern our conduct instead of being confined to throwing light on the means.

In this perspective, a phenome- non would be presented as normal if, to begin with, it appeared as sufficiently general in any given society where it formed an average type ; above all, and in a deeper sense, if it presented an exact correlation with the structure of the society from which it issued.

Professional ethics and civic morals

This correlation which provides the basis of the normal is more than the generality — itself hardly other than an indica- tion. On this definition, normality constitutes the soundness, identified with the well-being, of the society and thus is destined to guide its efforts towards adaptation. On this point we cannot help remarking that the generality may be a deceptive indication: that is, if it be possible that a conduct for survival i. Likewise we may observe that the precise conformity of any conduct with the correlative structure is a thing very difficult to appraise: this emerges from the examples cited by Durkheim in his chapter on the difference between the normal and the pathological, some of which seem pretty arbituary.

This difficulty is aggravated by the fact that each normal type is normal only to one definite society and not to human society in general.

Review of Emile Durkheim’s “Professional Ethics and Civic Morals”

It is increased too by the fact that, to establish the existence of the normal type, there must be a classification of societies. There is a scheme of this classification in the Regies, but it errs rather by over — systematizing; in its mechanical and a priori character it runs counter to the relative point of view which, by the principle of correlation, it should have adopted, and should have allowed to apply. Let us assume that the structure taken as a criterion of normality is, as it should be, indeed that of a given society, clearly defined, located and dated. Who will then assert that the system of beliefs and behaviours, the mentality and the institutions, which ought normally to arise within it and make their force felt, are necessarily determined on that premise?

When the structure is invoked as a criterion, is there only one xxii Introduction possible answer? Why should adaptation — for this lies at the root of the question — why should this not comprise various modalities? Likewise, it may happen that a geographical site may in one instance impose the town on the man, and in another, that man may impose the town on the site. Reference to the clearly defined normality alone, as we said, keeps us in any case, in company with Durkheim, within the strict limits of experience, and excludes any appeal to trans- cendency. The causal link by which it is sought to establish mechanically, as it were, a correlation with every social structure, derives therefore from the imperative theme of science, that we have already defined; and thus seems to lead sociology, which has evolved under this sign or indication, to a pure positive science.

Nothing of the sort, however. Durkheim was not long in revising his earlier view when he approximated the distinction between the ideal and the real to the distinction between the normal and the pathological; this view, from the time of his most rigid orthodoxy, went hand in hand with the assertion, set out above, which limits the positive science of that view to a remarkable degree: that is, the assertion of the specific nature of 'the social', having regard to the psychological and, more especially, to the biological. Could we not simply say that the type here propounded, unlike that explained by mechanism or positive science, excludes a reduction to simple elements as well as the claim to proceed always from the lower to explain the higher.

Sociology, the subject of which lies in nature and not outside it, ought to be a science as natural science is. There is, however, a diflference: it has to keep being to a science and yet let nothing escape it of the quality peculiar to 'the social' - — its own subject and concern and one that at the same time can be no other than a human subject.

That is because the social phenomena which sociology apprehends are the pheno- mena of human societies, and because, according to Durkheim, it is through his social character that man becomes progressively more human. And this is convincing because sociology is able at will to proceed from man to rediscover in analysing his nature the presence there of the society, or to proceed from the xxiii Introduction society, the study of which will inevitably take him on the road to Man.

In this way it is possible to temper the strict positive science of this distinction between the normal and the pathological, which was given a kind of exclusive warrant by the guiding principle of science, both for defining objective knowledge and for providing action with its ends no less than its means. And the bondage to positive science becomes less onerous still in the degree to which the ideal is, in consequence, the more sharply distinguished by Durkheim from the purely normal.

Then, the collective consciousness, considered more and more in its nature and in its action as a consciousness, would cut adrift from the morphological structures with which it began by being closely bound up: it would gain height and take on the character of near-universality, and in the end assume the function of transcendency in its role increasingly clear , of being a focus of the ideal. There is, then, no rigorously strict method that will serve: the human is not to be absorbed in any kind of mechanism or materialism. But the human, by virtue of its social dimension, and to the gain of consciousness, is only saved at the expense of the individual.

At this point we see the methodological tyranny of the theme of science re-appear. Under pressure from that tyranny, we get the exclusiveness given to the interpretation by causes entirely social, an exclusiveness to be equated with that given above to the notion of the 'normal'.


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It is in fact the peculiar character and, one must say, the narrowness too, of the Durkheim sociology that — once the social dimension of man is recognized — it seeks to keep that dimension alone to define humanity, and for the alleged reason that the social dimension alone can be objectively apprehended.

Hence it follows that the specific nature of 'the social' that we laid down as a major theme alongside that of science, in one sense limits the privilege of 'the social'; in another sense it gives it fresh force, since it provides 'the social' with a veto in respect of all that is pure individual spontaneity, the essentially subjective nature of which rules out any objective xxiv Introduction determination. The author thus seems to beUevc he must sacrifice the individual to 'the social' to allow 'the social' to save the human in the face of science.

It is a sacrifice however that, like Abraham's, is not made without stress, hesitation and compromise. We can judge of this by the place and the role assigned to individuality: here we see, alongside the will to restrict, not to say deny — a will of course very often and clearly asserted — a tendency here and there and by degrees to become less prohibiting. Hence, whilst we find a clear inclination to close up the Durkheim theory within its own exclusive and rigid sociality, there is an equally definite trend to open it, rather reluctantly perhaps, but more however with the motive of carrying it further than countering it.

Let us look at this more closely. First, we have no wish to deny the censorious conclusions that abound in the Regies de la Methode Sociologique; that is natural enough in a chart of method, objective and therefore severely scientific. Anyone capable of declaring that 'every time that a social phenomenon is directly explained by a psychologi- cal phenomenon, we can feel certain that the explanation is wrong", is led naturally evenif he grants that one cannot make an abstraction of man and his faculties , to maintain at least, and to emphasize that "the individual could only be that indeterminate substance which the social factor determines and transforms".

The same kind of logic leads to the assertion in respect of sentiments, that "far from being the foundation of social organization, they are the result of it. Human individuality cannot be said to be obdurately set against life in society but certainly, no less, it does not take to it willingly: it is, then, only an inde- terminate and malleable substance which would be no more capable than the Aristotelian substance of proceeding to any action of its own accord. This is so, since its passivity appears to be devoid of any true principle of determination.

Here, too, we have correlatively, as in Aristotle, a science only of the general, that is, of the social type, or, as described above, a science only of the social dimension of the individual.

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There XXV Introduction must indeed be nothing ambiguous about the meaning of the word 'general'. For if we take 'general' in the sense no longer of 'generic', as we have just done, by analogy with Aristotle , but in the sense of 'indeterminate', the 'general', taken thus, can be used on the contrary — because it is synonymous with 'indeterminate' — to qualify and banish individuality.

The Regies? Let us then see what, finally, we are asked to think of the so-called individual psychological propensities, that are constantly invoked to explain everything: this is, that "far from being inherent in human nature, they are either entirely lacking in certain conditions of society, or these conditions present so many variations from one society to another, that the residuum obtained after eliminating all these differences , which alone can be looked upon as of psycho- logical origin, is reduced to something vague and schematic: this leaves the facts that have to be expounded infinitely far off from us.

This applies in the case of the official whose standing and efficiency lie in the social force which he personifies; it also applies to the statesman or the man of genius, to whom he concedes only that 'they derive from the collective sentiments — of which they are the focus — an authority that is also a social force and which they can place, to some extent, at the service of personal ideas. Finally, to forestall any false hope he might raise amongst the individualists, he confirms this not very encouraging remark by a conclusion which is even less so: 'The reservation to the principle laid down above is thus not of any great importance to the sociologist.

The individual cannot break the thread of this interpretation to cut in with his own causality, even by way of contribution.


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