The Two Durkheims: Founders and Classics in Canadian Introductory Sociology Textbooks

Peter Mallory, Patricia Cormack


For contemporary Durkheim scholars, the presentation of Durkheimian sociology in introductory textbooks is notoriously flawed. In this article, we examine the presentation of Durkheim’s work in popular English-language Canadian sociology textbooks. We show that textbooks present two distinct “Durkheims.” First, they characterize him as a founder of the discipline and the sociological project of challenging common-sense explanations of social life. Second, Durkheim appears as the father of structural functionalism who advocates a conservative, integrating vision of society. We argue that to understand why these two versions of Durkheim persist in sociology textbooks, we must appreciate the symbolic place of classical authors in the discipline. The two “textbook Durkheims” endure because they operate as symbols for both the coherence and divisions of the discipline. We suggest that integrating contemporary Durkheimian scholarship into textbooks would require revising conventional textbook approaches of sorting classical authors as founders of contending sociological perspectives.


Durkheim; Sociological Theory; Textbooks; Sociological Pedagogy; Introductory Sociology; Collective Representations.

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