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Emil Durkheim este fondatorul sociologiei ca stiinta, considerand ca sociologia estestudiul stiintific al realitatii sociale

– realitatea sociala fundamentala este grupul - .De aceea Emil Durkheim a facut un pas mai departe in direactia
indicata de inaintasii sai – acela de a privi faptele sociale calucruri,ceea ce n-au facut si nu puteau sa faca A. Comte si
H. Spencer. Aceasta inseamna a trecede la subiectivismul filozofic la obiectivitatea stiintifica. Iar a privi faptele sociale
calucruri, inseamna totodata a le privi din afara, si un lucru nu se poate privi altfel; cacilucrurile sunt, dupa definitia
lui Simiand- si el un partizan al scolii sociologice – „ceea cerezista la spontaneitatea noastra personala”.Faptele
sociale sunt aspecte ale vietii sociale care nu pot fi explicate in termenispecifici individului, deoarece ele se produc
autonom de acestea si sunt exterioare lui.Cunoasterea lor presupune cautarea de date senzoriale obiective, rezultate
din masura lor incontextul vietii sociale. Faptele sociale constrang indivisul sa urmeze o anumita directie sinu
alta.Societatea actioneaza ca un sistem de constrangeri, determinandu-l pe individ saactioneze asa cum ii dicteaza
ea; de aceea societatea este mai mult decat suma partilor sale.Faptul social trebuie sa actioneze pentru asigurarea
ordinii sociale, prin reunireaindivizilor in vederea asigurarii functionarii intregului sistem social. Acesta duce
laformarea solidaritatii sociale, solidaritate care a fost mecanica, in societatile primitive, siorganica, in societatea
moderna. Prin solidaritate se realizeaza unitatea dintre ordineasociala silibertatea individuala iar nucleul ei il
reprezinta diviziunea complexa a muncii.

Auguste Comte, în Curs de filozofie pozitivă, este cel care afirmăposibilitatea cunoaşterii ştiinţifice a istoriei; pentru
el însă, istoria trebuia să aibă drept obiectiv cercetarea legilor care prezidau la dezvoltarea socialăa speciei umane;
după Comte, fenomenul istoric prezenta regularităţi şi constante, asemănătoare celor din ştiinţele naturii, fiind
necesară neglijarea excepţionale. Un istoric precum Foustel de Coulanges (La cite antique; Istoria instituţiilor politice
ale vechii Franţe) sau, în Marea Britanie, H. Th. Buckle (Istoria civilizaţiei engleze) afirmau existenţa legilor în istorie
şposibilitatea descoperirii lor. DupăFoustel de Coulanges, istoria nu era o art, ci o ştiinţă pur.Apropierea dintre istorie
şi ştiinţăpare să stabileascpozitiviştilor scopul istoricilor la cercetarea şa evoluţiei istorice, cu alte cuvinte, la
cercetarea a ceea ce putea fi cunoscut „pozitiv”, pe baza documentelor. Acest aspect a însemnat un câştig în
profunzime pentru istorici, dar a limitat orizontul lor. În Germania, Karl Lamprecht (cu Istoria Germaniei, 12 volume),
a pus accentul pe erudi, dar a fost, totodată, adeptul unei interpretări mai largi a faptelor din trecut. El a fost însă
orientat spre legitatea în istorie, definibilă prin tipuri de civilizaţie. Ch. Soignobos, este un istoric al modernităţii,
preocupat de istoria Europei în secolul al XIX-lea) stabilea normele cercetării istorice. Ruptura era radicală, istoria
îndepărtându-se brutal de providenţialismul creştin, de progresismul raţionalist sau de finalismul marxist. Propriu
ştiinţei, spuneau ei, este de a nu studia decât cauzele determinate Istoria trebuia să fie punerea în operă a
documentelor, stabilindu-se astfel o relaţie directă între subiect şi obiect (istoric şi document). Documentul semnifica
ceea ce rămâne din trecut, palpabil şi voluntar / scris: cărţi, corespondenţă, manuscrise. Ceea ce a îngustat foarte
mult cercetarea şi a orientat disciplina spre istoria politică

Controversele teoretice şi metodologice nu s-au purtat doar în jurul modalităţilor de a cunoaşte realitatea socială,
dar şi în privinţa conţinutului acestei realităţi, a structurilor şi proceselor care o definesc drept obiect al cercetării
sociologice. Primele abordări sistematice şi cu adevărat ştiinţifice ale problematicii sociale aparţin lui Emile Durkheim
şi Max Weber, consideraţi adevăraţii întemeietori ai noii ştiinţe. Caracterul predominant teoretic şi restrângerea
cercetării la analiza documentelor de arhivă ori a studiului de caz, nu au diminuat cu nimic valoarea explicaţiilor şi
interpretărilor date fenomenelor vieţii sociale. Dimpotrivă, profunzimea observaţiilor făcute de Durkheim în Le
Suicide (1897), sau paradigma genezei capitalismului în Occident – formulată de Weber în celebrul săstudiu Etica
protestantăşi spiritul capitalismului (1920) –, vin să confirme importanţa acordatăaspectelor factuale de către cei doi
sociologi. “Sociologismul obiectiv” – îmbrăţişat de adepţii ideilor lui Durkheim (M. Mauss, F. Simiand, L. Levy-Brühl, C.
Bouglé) –, s-a remarcat prin accentul pus pe dimensiunile macrosociale, globaliste şi holiste ale societăţii,
considerând că obiectul cercetării sociologice trebuie să fie “faptul social”, iar sociologia o “macrosociologie”. Privită
dintr-o astfel de perspectivă, lumea socială îl include pe individ, în sensul că tinde să-i “configureze”inteligibil o
existenţă complexă. Întrucât societatea se organizează prin intermediul instituţiilor (structuri pre-definite ale
raporturilor dintre oameni), face ca acţiunea umană să fie orientată, “indiferent de conştiinţa şi de voinţa
oamenilor”. Mai precis, “faptele sociale” trebuie privite ca “lucruri”, deoarece obiectivitatea lor este
datoratăconstanţei, regularităţii şi repetabilităţii lor în timp, fiind prin aceasta doar “instituiri sociale” rezultate din
acţiuni individuale întâmplătoare care, însă, au fost îndelung experimentate de către oameni în interiorul unor
“unităţi sociale” foarte concrete. În acest fel, fixarea reperelor atitudinale şi comportamentale conferă stabilitate şi
înţeles făptuirilor umane cotidiene, furnizând cadrul normativ necesar în care evoluează personalitatea fiecărui
membru al societăţii. Identitatea culturală, sistemul de valori, de repezentări sociale ori de mentalităţi sunt o
consecinţăa modului în care instituţiile orientează actele cotidiene ale membrilor unei comunităţi umane. Altfel spus,
“faptele sociale” acţionează ca norme şi se instituie ca reguli ale conduitei individuale şi colective, atribuind
sociologiei statutul de “ştiinţă a instituţiilor”, o ştiinţă interesată de tradiţii, sisteme morale şi de drept, ideologii,
credinţe, convingeri, convenţii sociale şi, nu în ultimul rând, de limbaj şi comunicare. Sub acest aspect, sociologia
dispune de un obiect propriu de studiu prin care se distinge în raport cu alte discipline ale socio-umanului: etnologia,
economia, psihologia, pedagogia sau istoria. Lumea privităşi analizată în “obiectualitatea” ei (ca lucruri-i.e.) conferă
veridicitate discursului despre societate. Cu toate acestea, fiind constante şi ireductibile, faptele sociale – în calitatea
lor de “lucruri” –, nu pot fi explicate decât prin referire la realitatea socialăcare le determină. Socialul se
explicănumai prin social, afirmă Durkheim, subliniind relaţia dintre actele individuale şi cadrele normative ale
societăţii. În această privinţă, conduita individualăste o consecinţăa ceea ce instituţiile constrâng personalitatea
sărealizeze, iar orice deviere de la normele convieţuirii sociale constituie a-normalitate sau anomie pentru societate.
Din această perspectivă, trebuie precizat faptul că, fiind cu deosebire preocupat de sublinierea identităţii demersului
sociologic, Émile Durkheim a insistat nu întâmplător asupra caracterului obiectiv al observaţiilor şi a conţinutului
ştiinţific al cercetărilor îndreptate asupra realităţii vieţii sociale. Fără a ignora natura subiectivăa actelor umane, el a
considerat că specificitatea noii discipline derivă din chiar tripla dimensiune sub care pot fi analizate “faptele
sociale”: a) morfologia socială, interesatăde “anatomia societăţii”, de instituţşi structurile sale constante şi
ireductibile; b) fiziologia socială, preocupată de “manifestările vitale ale societăţii” , c) 7sociologia generală,
desemnatăsă reunească într-o perspectivă sinteticăjudecăţile formulate la nivelul unor ştiinţe

Demersul autorului nostru in studierea religiosului ilustreaz\ inmod deosebit pozi]ia lui metodologic\. ~n Reguli, el
distinge intredou\ momente ale cercet\rii, acela al observ\rii [i acela al explic\rii. Exista deci o grij\permanent\ de
adoptare a unei perspective Ón acela[i timp obiec-tivist\ [i comprehensiv\ : R ́ eprezent\rile mitice sÓnt false Ón
raportcu lucrurile, dar sÓnt adev\rate Ón raport cu subiec]ii care le gÓndescª(E. Durkheim, 1955, p. 177).

Totu[i, vor obiecta unii, cum s\ conciliem aceste texte cu acelea,la fel de numeroase, Ón care Durkheim pare s\
neglijeze total autono-mia individului fa]\ de social, justificÓnd astfel repro[ul de sociolo-gism care Ói este adresat
atÓt de des ? Aceast\ veche disput\ este im-portant\ [i, bineÓn]eles, dialectica individ/societate nu se limiteaz\la
interpretarea operei lui Durkheim. Perspectiva calificat\ Ón gene-ral drept holist\, care face din mediul social sursa
oric\rei explica]iia faptelor sociale, pare, Óntr-adev\r, de neconciliat cu Óncerc\rile deinterpretare a fenomenelor
colective plecÓnd de la comportamenteleindividuale puse Ómpreun\ [i deci, Ón mod necesar, plecÓnd de
lamotiva]iile actorilor. Totu[i, unul dintre cei mai ilu[tri exege]i ai luiDurkheim, Robert Bellah, nu ezita s\ scrie : D
́ ou\
dintre conceptelesale fundamentale, Ñcon[tiin]\î [i Ñreprezentareî, se refer\ la reali-t\]i mentale [i psihice. De fapt,
Durkheim vorbe[te de faptele socialeca despre lucruri care apar]in lumii Ñmentaluluiî, a Ñmoraleiî, aÑspiritualuluiî
sau a Ñidealuluiî. A fost preocupat Ón mod constantde spirit, de con[tiin]\ (...)ª (citat de J. Prades, 1987, p. 86).
RaymondBoudon, la rÓndul s\u, este convins de faptul c\ multe dintre rezul-tatele ob]inute de Durkheim nu sÓnt
í nteligibile decÓt dac\ le con-sider\m efecte de agregare [i dac\ le analiz\m dintr-o perspectiv\individualist\ª (R.
Boudon, 1979, p.†14). CitÓndu-l pe Hans Alpert, elÓl descrie pe Durkheim ca un ŕ ela]ionist realistª, adic\ cineva
pentrucare realitatea social\ este constituit\ din sisteme concrete de inter-ac]iune Óntre agen]ii sociali (Ibid., p.
39).Acest pluralism interpretativ Ó[i g\se[te ñ poate ñ un Ónceput deinterpretare Ón analiza lui Prades. Acesta din
urm\ remarca faptulc\ Durkheim, Ón 1899, se referea la dualitatea individualului [i asocialului, a psihologiei propriu-
zise fa]\ de sociologie. Ar exista unfel de d́ ualitate constitutiv\ naturii umaneª, care justific\ [i chiarcere dou\
abord\ri [tiin]ific complementare : P ́ rin psihologie Ón]e-legem [tiin]a mentalit\]ii individuale, rezervÓnd numele de
socio-logie pentru ceea ce prive[te mentalitatea colectiv\ª (E. Durkheim,1899, p. 26).{i aici, gÓndirea lui Durkheim se
Óndep\rteaz\ destul de mult destereotipurile obi[nuite. Totu[i, prizonier al modelului de clasificarea [tiin]elor
mo[tenit de la A. Comte, Durkheim nu reu[e[te s\ ierar-hizeze domeniile cunoa[terii. El afirma astfel primatul
sociologieiasupra psihologiei, ceea ce diminueaz\ importan]a complementari

DURKHEIM: In his exposition Seignobos seemed to oppose historyto sociology, as if we had there two disciplines
using differentmethods. In reality, so far as I know there is no sociology worthyof the name which does not possess a
historical character. So if itwere established that history cannot admit the reality .of theunconscious, sociology could
not say otberwise. Here there are nottwo methods and two opposing conceptions. What is true forhistory will be
true for sociology. Only what must be examinedcarefully is whether history really does allow us to enunciate
theconclusion at which Seignobos arrived: the unconscious, is it theunknown and the unknowable? Seignobos claims
that this is thethesis of historians in general; but I believe that there are manywho would refute that assertion. Let
me mention in particularFustel de Coulanges.
SEIGNOBOS : Fustel de Coulanges abominated the very notion of the'collective consciousness'. DURKHEIM : But at
this moment we are not talking about the
collective consciousness. These are two completely different problems. We can imagine the conscious and the
unconscious in historywithout bringing in the Rotion of collective consciousness. The twoquestions are in no way
related to each other. The unconscious canbe unconscious in relation to the individual consciousness and yetnone
the less be perfectly real. ' So let us distinguish the twoproblems: the ideas of Fustel de Coulanges about the
collectiveconsciousness are completely irrelevant here. The question is toknow whether in history we can really
acknowledge causes otherthan conscious causes, those which men themselves attribute toevents and to actions of
which they are the agents.
SEIGNOBOS: But I have never said there were no other causes. I saidthat the conscious causes were those whiclt we
can determine mosteasily.
DURKHEIM : You said that the sole causes that the historian candetermine with any degree of certainty are those
revealed in thedocuments by participants or witnesses. Why are these to beprivileged? On the contrary, I think that
they are the most suspectof the causes. '
SEIGNOBOS: But at least the witnesses or the participants saw theevents, and that counts for a great deal.
DURKHEIM: We are not talking about events, but the inner motiveswhich may have determined those events. How
are these to beknown? Two procedures are possible. Either we will seek to findout these motives objectively by
some experimental method.Neither the witnesses nor the participants have been able to dothat. Or we will seek to
arrive at them by an inward-lookingmethod, by introspection. That is the only method that witnessesand
participants can apply to themselves. So it is the introspectivemethod which you are introducing into history and that
in anunrestricted fashion. But everybody knows how full the consciousness is of illusions.
For a very long time now there has been no longer anypsychologist who believes that by introspection he can arrive
at thedeep causes. Every causal relationship is unconscious, it must bedivined after the event. By introspection we
only arrive at thefacts, never the causes. How then can the participants, who arethemselves mixed up with the facts,
how then would they be ableto account for these causes? They are in the most awkwardconditions in which to
discover them precisely. And if this is truefor individual psychical facts, how much more so is it for socialevents
whose causes elude even more plainly the consciousness ofthe individual.These causes, pointed to by the
participants, far from havingany kind of importance, must generally be.held to be very suspecthypotheses. For my
part I am aware of no case in which theparticipants perceived the precise causes. To explain phenomenasuch as
religious prohibitions, such as the patria potestas of theRomans, would you accept as well founded the reasons for
themgiven by the Roman legal experts?How can facts of this nature be explained unless by ah experimental method
which proceeds slowly and objectively? Whatcan individual consciousness indeed know about the causes of factsso
considerable and so complex?,,SEIGNOBOS: We are not talking about the same facts. I am speakingsimply about
events, historical facts which have occurred onlyonce.
DURKHEIM: But what would be said about a biologist who considered his science as merely a story about the events
of the humanbody, without studying the functions of that organism? What ismore, you yourself have spoken about
religions, customs andinstitutions.
SEIGNOBOS: I hilVe spoken about them as sec;ond-order phenomenawhich impinge upo� the historian, but
concerning which healready feels much more ill at ease.
DURKHEIM: But you can understand absolutely nothing aboutevents as such, about facts, developments and
changes, you cannotunderstand what you call first-order phenomena, unless above allyou know the religions and
institqtions which are the physiologicalframework of society.
SEIGNOBOS: That's as may be. DURKHEIM: At least you acknowledge that, as regard& institutions,
beliefs and customs, the conscious motives of the participants nolonger enjoy th� privileged place that you ascribe
to them asregards e� ents? SEIGNOBOS: I am not saying here that the participants' hypothesesare worthless, I am
saying that there must be a lot more criticalthought before these motives are allowed, for there again it is
theconscious motives that we touch upon first.
DURKHEIM: SO , in any case, what the historian really arrives at arethe conscious causes? And everything else
remains a closed bookto him?
SEIGNOBOS: Not entirely a closed book, but more so than what isconscious.
DURKHEIM: SO the causes which are most immediately available tothe historian are the inner motives, such as they
appear to theparticipants? Why do they enjoy this singular privileged position?
SEIGNOBOS: But that's very simple: because the participants and thewitnesses afford us an explanation of the
conscious acts. Undoubtedly they can be mistaken, and we must criticise theirexplanations. But despite everything
they had the means ofknowing something - one which we did not.
DURKHEIM: If we have no other means of knowing, we must give uphistory. If we look upon history as you do, those
who do not .engage in it can comfort themselves and even r� joice that they donot do so.
SEIGNOBOS: There is indeed no security or certainty in history if weclaim to fathom causes. This is proved by the fact
that explanationsof phenomena are always different and never agree.
DURKHEIM: Your method leads to the ultimate degree of nihilism.So why then give such a large place to the teaching
of history? Itwould mean a lot of time wasted to achieve such singularly poorresults.
SEIGNOBOS: Excuse me: the function of history is to remind thosewho forget it of the interdependence and continual
reactionoccurring between various successions .of facts which we tendnaturally to separate into watertight
compartments. And, in thisway it can have a strong influence on the orientation of the mind.It demonstrates that
isolated or discrete phenomena cannot everexist.
DURKHEIM : Yet all those who, engage in the study of the past knowfull well that the immediately perceptible
motives and apparentcauses are by far the least important. We must penetrate muchmore deeply into reality in
order to understand it. Or otherwise, ifthere is no possibility of arriving at other causes, we must statefrankly that we
cannot arrive at any real cause. It is true that youdistinguish between, and seem to oppose the cause and the.
law.But what is a cause which is not a law? Every causal relationship isa law.
SEIGNOBOS: Not at all. There are events which have occurred onlyonce and yet whose cause can be determined.
DURKHEIM : As soon as I have established a relationship betweentwo terms, A and B, I have a law. We do not define
a law by thegenerality of the cases in which it is manifest. In fact it is notnecessary for the relationship to recur more
or less frequently; it issufficient for it to be of a kind capable of recurring. Logiciansrecognise that a law can be
established on the basis of one .wellconducted experiment. Once the law is established, the facts mayor may not
recur, but that has no theoretical importance. Certainphenomena, such as those relating to human biological
monstrosities, are instructive precisely because they are unique or exceptional. So I do not see how a causal
relationship cannot beestablished which is not a law. If I know that A is the cause of B, Iknow that A will always be
the cause of B. The bond that joinsthem is confirmed as a real one regardless of time and place.
SEIGNOBOS: Yet there is nobody who doubts that Marat wasstabbed. A blow from a knife can bring about someone's
death.That is a cause, and I don't see any laws behind that happening.
DURKHEIM: Everybody will say that Marat died from a knifewound, unless the over-heated bath before the dagger-
stabbing isfound to have effected his death. In any case, it is not because thestabbing came before his death that it is
seen as the cause of death.
It is by virtue of the general law that a stab by a knife determinesdeath if it reaches an essential organ. The stab is
only a cause if ithasproduced this result. If another cause had produced death, thestabbing would not be held to be
the cause. On this point thescientist and popular opinion are absolutely in agreement.But I go back to the techniques
for searching out causes. Is therereally no other method of discovering causes save by recourse tothe clues provided
by witnesses or participants? Why when we arefaced with human and social phenomena should we be placed
inconditions more unfavourable that when faced with phenomena ofnature? Why should we not, there too, seek out
the causes and thel� ws from the outside? I exclude sociology, which is still too younga science to serve as an
example. But there is psychology which hasexisted for a long time. In psychology one seeks to study theunconscious,
and is successful without in so doing building constructs in the sky.
SEIGNOBOS: The methods of observation are very much better.DURKHEIM: If in any field the introspective method
ever seemedindispensable, it is for the very study of the individual consciousness. For, by definition, here what is
studied is internal phenomena. And yet, in spite of the .difficulties, the psychologicalstudy of the unconscious and
the objective study of the consciousare possible and do come off. Why should either be impossible forsocial and
historical phenomena?
SEIGNOBOS : Is it really possible to study the unconscious inpsychology? I am completely unaware that it is, and I
think that nocertain conclusion on the matter has been reached. But in any casethe psychologist has at his command
research proceQures whichare not available to us. Firstly, he is working on human subjects,by which is meant
complete facts and not fragments randomlypreserved. He can observe cataleptics - and particularly theinsane. The
psychologist sees events unfold before him. In history,on the contrary, the very elements are missing, and we have
onlythe reflection of events perceived and related by others. We areobliged to work on second-hand materials, since
by definition weonly know about things what others who have seen them tell usabout them.DURKHEIM: The work
will be more difficult and complex, that's all;the procedures remain the same.
SEIGNOBOS: Not if the very elements are not available to us.
DURKHEIM: Then we must give up trying to study history. If thehistorical data are in any way accessible, they are
comparable, andthe objective method must be applied. Otherwise, history nolonger exists.
SEIGNOBOS: I beg your pardoQ: we have available some data whichare s'ufficient to allow us to establish
relationships of cause andeffect, but which do not allow . us to determine and explain theunconscious.
DURKHEIM: But here we are not talking about the unconscious.That's not the difficulty. What we are dealing with is
knowledge ofcauses, and I maintain that we cannot, in order to know the causeof an event or an institution, limit
ourselves in any way .toquestioning solely the actors in that event and to asking for theirview.
SEIGNOBOS : That's an exaggeration. There are cases in which thewitnesses are not mistaken. Thus they saw clearly
that William ofOrange left for England because he no longer feared the armies ofLouis XIV.
DURKHEIM: I am not saying that these interpretations are bereft ofany interest. When a sick person believes he has a
temp'erature, hisview, whether it is right or wrong, is an interesting fact that thedoctor must take into consideration.
Likewise here. But yourexample proves already that there is another method which ispossible. For how would you
choose between those cases wherethe witnesses are telling the truth and those . where they aremistaken, if you
have no other criterion than having recourse towitnesses? The doctor consults the sick person, he must beginthere,
b\lt the person's answer must only be one fact among otherfacts, and all these facts require methodically to be
elaborated,without any one of them being able to provide us directly andimmediately with the real cause. Whatever
' the value of theinformation contained in the documents, they must be criticisedand organised methodically and not
merely recorded. But you seehow much the question you have put is an ambiguous one. For themoment we are not
discussing the conscious or the unconsciousbut come back to the problem which occupied us last year:
theknowledge of causes in history. You have mixed up in thatquestion some reflections upon the unconscious which
are completely unrelated to it. It may be a truism, but that does notconcern the problem of the unconscious in any
way.
SEIGNOBOS: What I asked myselfwas precisely what is the irreducible part of the unconscious in what is historically
unknown. DURKHEIM : But the two questions arci completely unrelated. Onthis point I will go even further than you.
You seem to identify theconscious and the known, as if what . is made 'clear by the .cons� iousness of the individual
participant were more readilyknowable than the rest. In rea� ity, what is conscious is also veryobscure. So I will say
that the conscious and the unconscious areequally obscure and that, in both cases, the question of the methodto be
followed in order to arrive at a knowledge of causes is posedin iden� ical terms.
SEIGNOBOS: And yet there are conscious phenomena which are notunknown. Take the case of languages. .
DURKHEIM: Clearly words are known, but what meaning is placedbehind.the words? There is nothing more difficult
to discover.What we must look for is a means of comparing historical data,and establish series ofphenomenawhich
vary on parallel lines; it isby these methodical comparisons that it is possible to discovercauses. And I think we can
succeed in doing so. You are reallyforgetting that over the last fifty years we have made a lot ofprogress in
comparative history: that is a whole positive achievement that you seem totally to fail to recognise.
SEIGNOBOS : But also systems fall apart every twenty years.
DURKHEIM : If you want to show that science is always in a perpetualstate of evolution. I think that we are in
agreement on that point.Everybody admits that science progrel'ses slowly and never estaolishes more than
probabilities. But as soon as there are in history a .certain number of positive data, as soon as you deem those
datasufficient to provide the threads of an historical account, why ·should they be insufficient when one needs to
institute a methodical comparison? Nowhere are ready-made causes to be found; itmusf always be the mind that
uncovers them, and to do so onemust proceed methodically. Why, because historical documentsmust be minutely
criticised, because they are brief, ·incomplete,fragmentary, should one conclude that a science of history
isimpossible? ·But, if we look closely, the gap between the phenomena of life and what occurs in biology is no less
great than thegap between social life and what occurs in the practice of history.This is the position in every science.
SEIGNOBOS: On the contrary, wh;it is retained in the documents isinfinitesimal if we think about the host of past
events. In biologywe are dealing with concrete entities; in hist,ory we have onlyfragments ofevents.
DURKHEIM: What is to prevent you from comparing the fragments?You yourself acknowledge their solid links, since
you group themaccording to ages and build up from them a picture of the past..
SEIGNOBOS: We have the vague impression that several series ofphenomena change at the same time, but . . .
DURKHEIM: When I find that, in a number of well observed andwell studieq cases, a particular kind of family
organisation is linkedto a particular kind of social organisation, why should you preventmy establishing a relationship
between these two series of phenomena?
SEIGNOBOS: Because we are almost never dealing with sufficientlyanalogous phenomena to allow of a comparison.
. DURKHEIM: But after all they are facts; I find them so, and youknow how often one finds striking similarities
between institutionsof different peoples.
SEIGNOBOS : Such peoples are always very profoundly different.
DURKHEIM: But when, in studying marriage, I find, at verydifferent points on the globe, Identical formalities and
ceremoniescomparable in every respect, when I find that men and women livetogether in the same way, do you
think that there is nothingworthwhile to compare? What do you therefore conclude from allthat?
SEIGNOBOS: Nothing. I do not know the cause of these similarities.
LACOMBE: Seignobos seems to forget that the documents, consultedin themselves and in isolation, would never
succeed in authenticating the facts. On the contrary, it is the generality and theresemblances between the facts
which authenticate the documents. Without a comparison, there 'can be no certainty. Let ussuppose that you have
one single document, apparently authentic,but which tells of a fact of which there is no other example inhistory. You
will probably doubt the fact, and rightly so. SEIGNOBOS: But comparison in history in the end is reduced toanalogy;
there are never complete similarities.
LACOMBE: What does that matter? Without comparison, there is nocertainty. And on the other hand, it is
comparison which forms the.basis of our criticism and which makes it certain. When I amconfronted with certain
motives that historians attribute to theAncients, I am inclined to be doubtful, because, in the men thatare described
to me, I do not recognise the humanity that I know.You see that comparison is always valuable.
SEIGNOBOS: Quite so! It is in fact according to vague analogies withthe present that one judges and criticises most
often past phenomena, because to find really exact analogies between two seriesof the past and to compare them
happens only rarely. For thehistorian, to compare means above all to juxtapose what he findswith the present time
in which he is living.
LALANDE: Up to this point we have only tackled the first question,that of the knowledge of causes and the unknown
in history. Thereremains to be examined the second question, that of knowingunder what forms we must represent
what, in historical calises,escapes the consciousness of the individual. This is what Seignoboswas intending in the last
part of his note when he asked: 'Must webring into play a cause sui generis. . . , the pressure exerted by thebody
social in the form of tradition and collective organisation.This would lead one to admit the existence of a species
ofparticular phenomena, different from individual human facts.Should we attribute common characteristics whose
cause escapesus to a Volksgeist or·Sozialpsyche distinct from individuals?'
DURKHEIM: That question does not seem to me to come into theone with which we are dealing. Doubtless
Seignobos appears tobelieve that the collective consciousness has been dreamed up as away of explaining the
unconscious in history. That is inexact.Firstly, one can admit that the unconscious exists, and yet denyany collective
consciousness; the unconscious can be. entirelyindividual. Then, if there is a collective consciousness, it mustinclude
conscious facts and account for them, as well as unconscious facts. For, after all, since it is. a consciousness (provided
wesuppose it exists), it must indeed be conscious in some respects.
SElGNOBOS: How then? I would indeed like to know where islocated the place where the collectivity thinks
consciously.
DURKHEIM : I have no need to tackle here the question of thecollective consciousness, which goes far beyond the
subject withwhich we are dealing. All I would say is that, if we admit theexistence of a collective consciousness, we
have not dreamed it upwith the aim of explaining the unconscious. We thought we haddiscovered certain
characteristic phenomena absolutely differentfrom phenomena of individual psychology and it is by this routethat
we have been led to the hypothesis that you are attacking here- I hardly know why.
LALANDE: Yet it does seem that the two questions are linked: thesolution of the first can depend on the solution to
the second. If it.is true that there exists a collective social spirit, does that not rule,out the method which consists in
seeking the explanation ofhistorical facts in the motives of the participants and in theconsciousness they have of
them? The only legitimate methodwould then be, as Durkheim thinks, to site onself at an objectiveviewpoint, to
compare series and arrive at laws by discovering thatevents repeat 'themselves..
DURKHEIM: I have not come here to expound my own method butto discuss the one Seignobos is proposing to us.
But I would like toknow for what reason he denies us the right to establish comparisons between historical fa� ts.
SElGNOBOS: In the positive sciences the elements are analogous andare precisely known, they are homogeneous
and exact, so that onecan then compare series of phenomena (well defined chemicalsubstances). In history, on the
other hand, what we are comparingare quite simply things that are called or have been called thesame, and such an
identity of designation may be a purely verbalone. That is why I say that psychological phenomena are
notcomparable to one another. On the contrary, when by chance weare dealing with physical or physiological
phenomena, comparisonbecomes possible. Thus the family can doubtless be studied moreeasily than other
phenomena.
DURKHEIM: I must confess that I experience astonishment when Ihear enunciated as self-evident a proposition
which seems to me tobe contradicted by all that I know about it. The starting point ofdomestic evolution · is in no
way physical. The greater part offamily phenomena, as they have come down to us, do not seem toflow from the act
of procreation. Procreation is not the central andconstituting act for the family. The family is often a grouping
ofpeople who are not even united by the ties of blood (the elementof blood relationship is often very small).
SEIGNOBOS: But that is precisely why we no longer call such agrouping a family. Historically a family is made up of
elements'related by blood. .
BtoCHE: But take the'Y€V071in Greece. It has not been at all provedthat it was made up of elements related by
blood, nor that it owedits origins to consanguinuity.
.LACOMBE: The essential fact which classes you as a member of thefamily is the fact of co-operation. When the son
leaves the father,when he no longer co-operates with him, he is no longer in thefamily, he even loses his right to
inherit. On the contrary, he whohas been received and allowed to co-operate, by this very factenters the family. So,
in the Middle Ages, when a man with noblood relationship shared hearth and board, he became a coinheritor.
SEIGNOBOS : This discussion shows, better than I would have beenable to do, the entire difficulty we have in
agreeing in history, evenabout the most common and apparently the most clear ideas. For,after all, who can prove to
me that the Greek 'Ye vD11 can beassimilated to the family in the sense that we understand the word?
BtoCH: You say that it is not proved. But, if the Greek'YeP017 is notthe family in the present meaning of the word,
one can at leastallow that it takes the place of it and that it has been conceived ofin imitation of the family.
DURKHEIM: Or conversely, that the limited family of today hasbeen conceived of in imitation of the 'YeP017'
BLOCH: I am really frightened at the scepticism of Seignobos. If one .listens to him, what would remain of history?
Almost nothing.But, from another viewpoint, I think, contrary to Durkheim, that. there is a profound distinction to be
drawn between the methodscapable of being used in history and those of the other sciences. We must study
historical phenomena as they have been given to usonce and for all, for, whatever we may do, we shall never
succeedin repeating them. Hence the difficulty that we have in history, informulating laws, and the impossibility of
admitting, as doesDurkheim, that causes are identifiable with laws. That is true inthe other sciences but here, as
repetition is impossible, since wecannot isolate what is essential from what is peripheral, things aredifferent.We
shall perhaps be able to enunciate laws, so long as theyconcern very simple and crud.e historical facts (such as,
forexample, the facts of human geography) but we must abandon theattempt as soon as we touch upon so various
and complexpsychological facts.
DURKHEIM : Then we must also give up formulating causal relationships.
BOUGL� : Like Durkheim, I think that every causal explanation, inorder really to be an explanation, cannot fail to
refer to laws.It is true that historians very often believe that they areexplaining certain phenomena by the causes
alone, having left lawsout of account. This merely means that they leave obscure andwithout spelling them out the
laws on which their assertions rely.Sometimes, however, they formulate laws in spite of themselves; they are thus
caught in the act of being sociologists. Thusrecently, in a book by Bloch, I came across this general proposition
concerning the remnants of client peoples who survived in. ancient Gaul: The regime of 'protection' 'is imposed and
predominates every time that ,the state shows itself to be unequal to itstask, namely incapable of ensuring the
security of individuals,either because it has not yet fully constituted itself or because ithas already begun to break
up'. Examples of this kind could bemultiplied. They tend to prove that one cannot explain withoutinvoking laws.
BLOCH: This is indeed an insuperable tendency which the historianresists with difficulty, but it only shows that we
should be moreprudent and hedge our assertions round with more reservationsthan we do.
DURKHEIM: In the end I believe I am in agreement with Bloch, oncondition that we distinguish between two things
that are utterlydifferent and which the historian of modern times does notdistinguish between sufficiently: (1)
historical events, and (2)permanent social functions. So far as events are concerned, we arepresented with an
indefinite mountain of facts, in whose midst themind elm only introduce with difficulty some scientific order. Iadmire
the historians who can live comfortably amid this pile ofdisordered events. .But beyond the events, there are the
functions, the institutions,the ways,- fixed and organised, of thinking and acting. In thatdomain comparisons become
possible: instead of being overwhelmed by the extreme diversity of the given facts, one is soonstruck by the very
limited number of types, by the kind ofimpoverishment· manifest when the same function is studied indifferent
peoples or in different eras. Up to now I have only beenable to carry this out for types of family, but I have noted,
throughthe ages, a/very small number of distinct types. And a type offamily is solidly linked to the whole social
organisation. Thus itmust be roughly the case for the other functions which, togethermake up the collectivity. It is
true that I have not been able tostudy' every society and I have had to eliminate and leave manyfacts out of account.
But it is nevertheless striking how one canco-ordinate and reduce to a few large but very simple forms thefamily
institutions of a great number of peoples. Their identity isextremely remarkable and well shows up the possibility of
a truehistorical science. For other functions doubtless the task would bemore complex, but the difficulties do not
appear to be insuperable.In any case the historian has the right and the duty to undertake,this work, instead of
giving up in despair.
SEIGNOBOS: Unfortunately there is a fundamental difficulty whichmakes sucq attempts singularly hazardous: it is
that we have nomethod of constructing really precise categories that are comparable; we never know exactly what
we are comparing. Such juxtapositions may be ingenious and suggestive, but there is nothing atall scientific about
them.
LACOMBE: This is because you are too demanding or too ambi� ious,you are always wanting to compare large
masses of facts andevents with each other. We should begin by analysing andcomparing fragments. For instance, I
propose to show the similarrepercussions caused in different times and place by the same typeof land cultivation.
SEIGNOBOS : Clearly there are simpler phenomena, for· which afairly restricted number of combinations are possible
(for example, family organisation). But if we take political life or languages,here there is no longer anything save
indeterminateness.
BOUGLE: But in the study of languages they have succeededprecisely in distinguishing laws and establishing
meaningful relationships.
SEIGNOBOS: They have hardly discovered more than the laws ofphonetics, and even then because there was a
physiologicalunderpinning which allowed the use of experimental methods, andeven graphical ones. . .
DURKHEIM : On the contrary, many linguists believe that one mightwith advantage introduce a sociological
viewpoint into the study oflanguages. \
SEIGNOBOS: But that can only bring obscurity into them. What canwe understand about the social mechanism of
ancient collectivities? Very little, and then solely by means of analogies with oursociety today.
DURKHEIM : It seems to me on � e other hand that we understandAustralian (aboriginal) societies much better than
our own.
SEIGNOBOS: We don't mean the same thing by the word 'understand'. For my part, it seems that we understand
much betterpresent-day societies than Australian ones. It is probably a question of imagination. I only regret that we
do not succeed instudying directly the question of the unconscious.
BOUGLE: But you seem to persist in believing that the unconsciouscan be assimilated to the unknown. Why do you
refuse to apply tounconscious motives the research procedures that you apply toconscious motives? The bases of
your research are the same, thereasoning processes that you employ to induce the causes ofactions and events are
as valid for unconscious causes as for theothers.
SEIGNOBOS: That's not so. When unconscious motives are inquestion I can find out nothing. I draw a blank.
BOUGLE: If you'll pardon me, our personal experience reveals to usequally well both unconscious and conscious
motives. Does it notteach us that many of our actions can only be explained by causeswhich, at ·the moment. the
action occurs, did not occur to ourconsciousness at all? We are continally perceiving after the eventthe motives·of an
action which had escaped us. Thus we can just aswell discover in the past cases of unconscious motivation'as casesof
conscious motivation.
SEIGNOBOS : Not so, because the experiences that you are talkingabout are not set down in the documents which
relate the eventsand their apparent causes. .
BOUGLE: But the unconscious causes are just as much - or just aslittle - to be found in the documents as the
conscious causes. Inboth cases you don't just transcribe the document, you try tounderstand and reconstruct the
state of mind ofits author. TakeLivy's history. I think that the unconscious motives which directhim are to be read
just as easily as the conscious and apparentones.
SEIGNOBOS: I haven't much faith in the possibility of reconstitutingin this way the psychology of individuals or of
groups.
LACOMBE: What in the world then impels you to write history?
SEIGNOBOS: To seek out relationships between series offacts and toundeIStand the past according to the mo� el of
the present day.
LACOMBE: But behind the facts what we are always looking for isMan; agreed, this is very difficult, but the purpose is
always tosucceed in revealing the psychological mechanism of actions andevents.
SEIGNOBOS: My purpose, very simply, is to explain, if that bepossible, by what chain of well-connected events we
have arrivedat the present state. And in that exp� anation I am disposed toattribute very great importance to the
motives expressed by theparticipants, because they have known the facts directly.Concerning the unconscious, what
I am asking is whether it can� e explained by a series of inner states of individuals who act incommon, or whether
we must postulate the intervention ofsomething external and superior to the individuals.
DURKH� IM: Once again, under the heading of the unconscious youare reifying an entity. I can understand that you
were posing thquestion for all .th� phenomena of collective life: can they beexplained by individual causes or
should we allow the existence ofspecifically social causes? But why limit the question to unconscious phenomena?
SEIGNOBOS : Because for us they are more mysterious and becausewe are more inclined to concede to them causes
independent ofindividuals.
DURKHEIM: But the fact that the events have been, or have notbeen, conscious phenomena is of secondary
importance for the .historian who is really seeking to understand and reflect. Youbelittle your role by hiding behind
these witnesses or participants,whom you call conscious ones. So long as no methodical researchhas been
undertaken, we do not know whether such and such aphenomenon depends upon conscious and unconscious
motives.So there is no criterion fixed beforehand. Such a distinction is the .fruit of historical research and not a guide
to it. The unconscious isoften explained by the conscious, and vice versa. The unconsciousis often only a lesser state
of consciousness. In short, there is noparticular problem posed in order to acquire knowledge of theunconscious.
Really you are· posing, in partial form, the greatproblem of sociology, that ofthe collective consciousness, which istoo
general to be tackled here.
SEIGNOBOS: I posed that question because in history we often comeacross inexplicable phenomena, which
apparently seem to springfrom unconscious causes. It is because of this phenomenon thatthe 'historical school' and
Lamprecht have postulated the influence of supra-individual realities, and I thought that it was byobeying a
sentiment of the same kind that contemporary sociologists had been led to postulate a collective reality suigeneris.
DURKHEIM : That is the mistake. I do not need to entertainhypotheses concerning the reasons which may have
motivatedLamprecht. But those which have governed the contemporarysociologists to whom Seignobos is referring
are completely different. And this leads me to contrast the two attitudes that you haveindicated - the Voltairean
attitude which confines itself to statingthat there are things still unknown, and the mystical one whichattributes a
real existence to the mystery of the past - to contrastthese two with a third attitude, which is the one we adopt.
Itconsists in working methodically so as to arrive at understandingscientifically the fact, without partiality and
without any imposedsystem.
SEIGNOBOS: But that is exactly the Voltairean attitude, the one towhich I bow.
. LALANDE·: All in all, there can be two ways of comprehending theword 'understand', that of the historian and that
of the sociologist.For the historian, to understand is to represent things to oneselffrom the viewpoint of the
psychological motivation, the model iswithin ourselves at the present time. For the sociologist, on theother hand, to
understand is to represent things to oneself fromthe viewpoint of individual cases which can be reduced to a law
orat least to a general type which has already been laid down. Theseare two problems with no connection with each
other, whoseapparent contradiction derives only from the fact that they aredesignated by the same word, unless
they are joined with otherhypotheses.
DURKHEIM : In short, we do not accept as such the causes that arepointed out to us by the agents themselves. If
they are true, theycan be discovered directly by studying the facts themselves; if theyare false, this inexact
interpretation is itself a fact to be explained.
LALANDE: It seems to me that Seignobos and Durkheim are inagreement, in so far as they both admit that individuals
can never be considerep in isolation, before or outside society, and t� at theycannot even be postulated without
postulating society at the sametime.
DURKHEIM: Let us .rest on that illusion, and let us · say thatSeignobos, like myself, admits that a society changes
individuals.
SEIGNOBOS: Agreed, but only on condition that the society isconceived of solely as the totality of individuals.
DURKHEIM: If you prefer it; let us say that the composing of theassembled whole changes each one of the elements
to be assembled together..SEIGNOBOS: I admit that tautology.
Simiand
He believed, as Jacques Revel hasnoted, that new rules of sociological method could provide the foundation for
aunified social science in which the various disciplines would exhibit particularmodalities. Simiand entreated
historians, economists, and geographers to producescholarship that balanced empirical investigation and inductive
analysis: neitherfacts without theory nor theory without facts. Animatedby the Durkheimian agenda of studying all
aspects of social life as objectivereality, Simiand ’ s work in economic history convincingly demonstrated how
theinvestigation of collective beliefs (r é pr é sentations collectives) in a given milieu, howa focus on seasonal cycles
(conjonctures) and long - term trends (longue dur é e) ratherthan on “ epiphenomenal ” or unique events, how
understanding causality in termsof social forces as opposed to individual actions, and how a more rigorous use
ofempirical rather than deductive interpretive methods could benefit historicalresearch.
Against the hopes of Berr, Bloch, and Febvre, however, Simiand sharedDurkheim ’ s methodological and territorial
concerns; he envisioned French sociology as a master discipline best suited to synthesize, analyze, compare, and
theorizethe research of other fi elds. Durkheim ’ s efforts (during the late 1800s) to institutionalize sociology as a
major academic discipline within the French universitysystem had already encountered hostility from the historical
and geographicalprofessions. His ecumenical claims concerning sociology ’ s role as the keystone ofall emergent
social sciences directly challenged the newly organized French historical profession ’ s enthronement as the de facto
“ queen of the sciences of man. ”He sharpened this debate in, among other places, his review of Friedrich Ratzel ’
sAnthropogeographie in L ’ Ann é e sociologique ( 1898 – 9 ). There, Durkheim attackedRatzel ’ s geocentric
formulations and rhetorically asked which academic profession was best suited topursueinvestigations concerning
the organic and societaldeterminants of social behavior and change. He then argued that historians hadforfeited
their claim to leadership over the social sciences as the result of theirunsound and unscientifi c methodologies,
excessive specialization, inadequateemphasis on synthesis, refusal to develop general laws of historical
development,and lack of concern for scholarship useful for contemporary purposes. This imperial presupposition
informed thecombative tone of Simiand ’ s work and relationswith other disciplines – history included. Simiand
developed a critique of existing methodological practices in thesocialand human sciences by publishing reader ’ s
notes and reviews in various journals.As editor of the sociology pages in the Revue de m é taphysique et de morale in
1896 – 7,Simiand attacked the metaphysical assumptions that underpinned the organicistsociology associated with
the Revue internationale de sociologie (International Revueof Sociology) as unsound, outdated, and untenable. His
review of Organisme etsoci é t é (Organism and Society) by Ren é Worms (who also happened to be thepresident of
the Revue internationale de sociologie), for instance, challenged theauthor ’ s reliance on nineteenth - century
theories that linked the natural and socialsciences through outdated theories of embryonic development. Simiand
even questioned Emile Durkheim ’ s reliance in LeSuicide, é tude de sociologie (On Suicide, 1897) on data confl ating
single and thereforeunique events with repeated and presumably uniform phenomena. His confidence in the
methodological value of statistical analysis, historicaltrends, and collective psychology emboldened Simiand to
critique their absencein contemporary historical practice. He addressed “ [t]he unease about method, ofwhich one
sees many signs at present among historians, ” in terms of “ the relationsof proximity, of rivalry, and indeed of confl
ict that exist more and more betweentraditional history and the new social science. ” Indeed, because Simiand
developedhis methodological ideas through his critiques of contemporary works in thesocial and human sciences,
the two voices remain inextricably linked throughouthis oeuvre. Pierre Lacombe had already challenged historians to
adopt sociologicalperspectives and to redirect their energies toward normative phenomena, causalexplanations,
social relationships, and comparative methodologies in L ’ Histoireconsid é r é e comme science (History Considered
as Science, 1894). Charles Seignobos– who, with Victor Langlois, published in 1898 their Introduction aux é tudes
historiques (Introduction to HistoricalStudies) which defended history ’ s disciplinaryautonomy and made the close,
critical reading of primary sources the center ofthe historical method – resolutely rejected Lacombe ’ s project and
reaffirmed thesuperiority of historical methods over those of other humanities disciplines in LaM é thode historique
appliqu é e aux sciences (Historical Method Applied to the Sciences,1901). Simiand chargedhistorians with
worshipping three false historical idols: “ the perpetual preoccupation ” with high politics, the chronological and
obsessive pursuit of uninterruptedorigins of “ great events, ” and the “ inveterate habit ” of conceiving history in
termsof the activities of “ great ” individuals. This thirty - year - old firebrand and “ methodological fanatic ” charged
Seignobos – the doyen of French historical studies andtherefore, by extension, the historical profession at large –
with numerous methodological defi ciencies, imprecisions, and inconsistencies. Thinking as a sociologist eager to
elevate the “ social ” over the “ individual, ” and building on theargument outlined in his D é duction et observation
psychologiques en é conomie sociale:remarques de m é thode (Psychological Observations and Deductions in
SocialEconomy: Refl ections on Method, 1899 ), Simiand faulted historians for not rigorously maintaining a
distinction between subjective and objective categories andfor providing ample description (however useful) at the
expense of sound explanation. Historical narratives thatfocused on the lives of individuals, he argued, oftenconflated
social phenomenon with subjectivity and thereby mistook independentand external factors for the characteristics
that constitute individual personality.He found this mistake to be entirely peculiar, coming as it did from a
professionthat regularly denied the objective reality of social psychological phenomena as“ pure abstraction.
”However much they may themselves be abstractions, Simiand posited thatsocial categories provided superior
analytic criteria insofar as they described andtheorized social phenomena regularly repeated over time: “ The
regularities ofcoexistence and succession among phenomena that are uncovered and expressedby science impose
themselves onus; they are not our doing, and therein lies theirobjective value. ” This line of reasoning implicitly
recognized that the temporaldimension of historical analysis – thatis, the study of change over time – was
anessential component of the sociological project. In contrast, he noted, the historians ’ propensity for favoring
singularover regular events was enshrined in a methodology that fetishized documents associated with unique and
accidentaloccurrences whose causal antecedents remained ambiguous. This propensity produced false perspectives,
misguidedcausality, and suspect teleologies. Simiandpointed to Seignobos ’ attribution of the most important
developments in thenineteenth century to the words and deeds of famous statesmen and kings as anillustrative
example of mistaking the spark for the powder keg. Simiand extendedthis critique to the economic historian Henri
Hauser, accusing him of using imprecise social categories and an “eclectic ” methodology in De l ’ enseignement des
sciencessociales (Teaching in the Social Sciences, 1900 ). Simiand ’ s preoccupations with inductive reasoning,
cliometric analysis, longue dur é e perspectives, collective beliefs, andeconomic cycles greatly influenced the works
of economic historians such asErnest Labrousse ’ s Esquisse du mouvement des prix et des revenus en France au XVIII
è mesi è cle (Sketch of the Movement of Prices and Revenues in Eighteenth - centuryFrance) in 1933, Fernand
Braudel ’ s La M é diterran é e et la monde m é diterran é en àl ’ é poque de Philippe II (The Mediterranean and the
Mediterranean World in the Ageof Philip II) in 1949, and their joint Histoire é conomique et sociale de la France
(AnEconomic and Social History of France) in 1970 – 82. Indeed, although Simianddeclined in order to complete his
own projects, Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvreasked him to head the Annales research on the history of prices (in 1930
).Questions concerning Simiand ’ s emphasis on direct observation as an unproblematic research method remain diffi
cult to resolve. Ludovic Frobert, amongothers, invokes Gaston Bachelard ’ s poetics of critical projection to
underscoreSimiand ’ s imaginative process as revealing the pole of a methodological spectrumwhich arguably
retained elements of nineteenth - century positivism as its counterweight. In order to replace homoeconomicus as
the wellspring of economic behavior, Simiand ’ s methodology was further complicated by his ventures into
therealms of social psychology and other collective beliefs neither dictated norexplained by statistical tables and
hard data. In the final analysis, however – andperhaps this compliment is the highest paid to him – those whom
Simiand soughtto convert to the standards of more rigorous investigation, did so, not under theaegis of sociology as
a master narrative, as he had hoped, but within their respective disciplines.