Durkheim, Émile. 1912. "The Cultural Logic of Collective Representations" (94-103).

See: Durkheim Introduction for beaucoup de background information.


  1. Morality and legality, among all other facets of society, have been born of religious origin and until recently have been inextricably connected to rituals.
    1. “If religion has given birth to all that is essential in society, it is because of the idea of society is the soul of religion” (Durkheim 1912, 94.
  2. “Collective sentiments” must interact with external objects to become conscious; in this case external objects are humans.
    1. These sentiments then take on a kind of humanness.
    2. “Religious forces are therefore human forces, moral forces” (Durkheim 1912, 94).
  3. Religion has both materialistic and mental operations; operations performed by society benefit humanity.
  4. Ideal world and sacredness come about in the same way.
    1. Social gatherings, rituals, give rise to a buzz of feeling and in response to this feeling people attribute it to particular items, entities that truly possess no relation. Voilà, arbitrary sacred and ideal.
  5. Ideals, necessities of society, and the relation of them to reality do not create tension or divergence; it is, instead, two differing ideals that create said tension.
    1. Ideals and reality are inextricable and do not break. It is not the supposed separation of those that creates conflict, but the clashing of multiple ideals in opposition.
  6. In adhering to the collective ideals of society, one creates “ideals.” The creation of ideals is necessary in order to “be a man,” and the rate and extent to which one individualizes collective ideals and makes “personal ideals” is dependent on individual personality (Durkheim 1912, 96).
  7. Although religion is social, it is not just a mere “restatement of historical materialism” (Durkheim 1912, 96).
  8. Ritual activity and mythological thought are manifestations of collective consciousness that are participated in and performed for the sake of pleasure or self-affirmation (as opposed to utility).
  9. Stability of concepts implies the concept is a product of collective representations.
    1. Only events of a great magnitude can affect the collective representation of consciousness of an entire society.
    2. All in contrast to individual concepts, which are affected and altered by small changes.
  10. Language is the epitome of a collective representation.
    1. We do not know all words in our language nor have we experienced all things in which language can be applied.
  11. Collective representations are that way, socially collective, because they transcend knowledge and experience of individuals in society.
  12. Concepts (which are collective representations) are significant because they offer to each the knowledge and experiences of others—since collective representations are a compilation of individuals’ thoughts, experiences, perceptions, etc.
  13. “Logical thinking is always impersonal thinking” (Durkheim 1912, 98).
    1. Sub species aeternitatis
    2. “Impersonality and stability are the two characteristics of truth” (Durkheim 1912, 98).
    3. Awareness of the distinction between truth and else is not a precept to society.
  14. “Truth,” in essence had to be discovered.
    1. Truth is discovered when an individual realizes “there I a world of ideas according to which one must shape his own” (Durkheim 1912, 98).
  15. Initially concepts and representations were thought of as true because they were collective. Now we demand things are true before we as individuals give them our allegiance and contribute to their increasing collectivity.
  16. Concepts are both products of society and tools used to explain society.
  17. Categories “dominate and envelop all the other concepts” and are “permanent moulds for mental life” (Durkheim 1912, 100).
  18. “All” cannot be grasped and is not created by the individual, but “all” still seeks to “envelop” all concepts, including that of the individual” (Durkheim 1912, 100).
  19. Totality is a “whole which includes all things, the supreme class which embraces all other classes” (Durkheim 1912, 101).
  20. Categories express concepts learned through society, further reinforcing its attachment to social life.
    1. Men need more than immediate need-based sensations to navigate concepts and categories.
  21. In order to be understood by individuals, society must be divided and classified into groups.
    1. Using different groups as a reference to understand classifications of another group is important.
  22. Collective consciousness is “the consciousness of the consciousnesses” (Durkheim 1912, 102).
    1. It doesn’t create moulds, but “finds them within itself” (Durkheim 1912, 102).
  23. Society is an individuality.
  24. “Above the individual, there is society” (Durkheim 1912, 103) and that gives way to understanding individuals in a new manner.


DURKHEIM, ÉMILE. 1912. "The Cultural Logic of Collective Representations" Pp.94-103 in Social Theory: The Multicultural Readings (2010) edited by C. Lemert. Philadelphia: Westview Press.

Original source: DURKHEIM, ÉMILE. 1912. Pp. 466, 467, 469-472, 482-486, and 488-496 in The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. New York: Free Press, 1933, 1965.

(See Lemert 2010, 94 for “original source” citation*)

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License