Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of Sociology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


One of the most important contributions to the discipline of sociology was Emile Durkheim's theoretical discussion of the collective conscience. For Durkheim, it was the collective conscience—the common ways of defining the world, as well as the common moral bond between people—that provided the initial foundation for social solidarity. It was the glue that kept society organized and functioning. While Durkheim's discussion of the collective conscience is a landmark contribution to sociology, it is clear that the idea of collective definitions and representations predates Durkheim. One of the purposes of this theoretical study is to demonstrate how indebted Durkheim's thinking was to the thinking of the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. Significant parallels are shown to exist between Schopenhauer's notion of representation in The World as Will and Idea and Durkheim's pivotal concept of common moral bond or conscience as discussed in The Division of Labor in Society. The thesis is concluded by tracing the importance of the collective conscience through the rest of Durkheim's major works—Suicide, The Elementary Forms of Religious Life, and The Rules of Sociological Method. In each case, the link between Durkheim's and Schopenhauer's thinking is highlighted.



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Sociology Commons