Late Nineteenth Century Lamarckism and French Sociology

Perspectives on Science 10 (1):69-122 (2002)
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Abstract

: The transfer of modes of thought, concepts, models, and metaphors from Darwinian and Lamarckian evolutionary biology played a significant role in the mergence, constitution, and legitimization of sociology as an autonomous discipline in France at the end of the nineteenth century. More specifically, the Durkheimian group then came to be recognized as "French sociology." In the present paper, I analyze a facet of the struggle among various groups for this coveted status and demonstrate that the initial adherence to and subsequent abandonment of "the biological" played an important, but complex, role in the outcome of that struggle. Furthermore, the choice of biological model, whether Darwinian or Lamarckian, had repercussions on one's position in that cultural field. The outcome of the "battle" between René Worms' group that supported and contributed to the Revue Internationale de Sociologie (RIS) on the one hand, and Emile Durkheim's group and those committed tothe L'Année Sociologique (AS) on the other—from which the Durkheimians emerged victorious—was due not only to internal scientific factors, but also to a particular juxtaposition of developments within sociology and anthropology and their relation to and interaction with French culture and politics at large

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