Skip to content
Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton September 24, 2014

Durkheim on Laws, Suicide Rates, and Symbols

Chun Felix Huang
From the journal Chinese Semiotic Studies

Abstract

This study explores Durkheim’s theory of the society and the symbol and its relation to structuralists such as Saussure and Levi-Strauss. Durkheim asserts that a society is a state of “solidarity”, which can only be grasped via symbolism. “Repressive laws”, such as criminal laws, symbolize the traditional society constituted by similarities among people; while “restitutory laws”, such as civil laws, symbolize the modern society constituted by differences. Durkheim traces the symbols back to religion, which divides the world into sacred and secular domains. Religion makes use of totems, as symbols, to exert force upon members of tribes. The dichotomies constructed by Saussure and Levi-Strauss respectively are influenced by Durkheim to a certain extent.

Published Online: 2014-9-24
Published in Print: 2014-10-1

© 2014 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin/Boston