Meloni, M. (2016) The Transcendence of the Social: Durkheim, Weismann, and the Purification of Sociology. Frontiers in Sociology, 1. 11. ISSN 2297-7775
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.
|Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information:||© 2016 Meloni. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY)(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.|
|Institution:||The University of Sheffield|
|Academic Units:||The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Department of Sociological Studies (Sheffield)|
|Depositing User:||Symplectic Sheffield|
|Date Deposited:||25 Jul 2016 08:12|
|Last Modified:||25 Jul 2016 08:12|