The Paradoxical Relevance of Durkheim to Our Time

The relevance of Durkheim’s arguments about the collective consciousness to our current moment is that wokeness and Trumpist populism alike are promoted and sustained—chiefly through social media—by a collective consciousness that meets Durkheim’s definition of a religion. Moreover, both movements have a stronger, more decisively religious character than the belief in “the dignity of the human person” that in Durkheim’s time had become “a sort of religion,” a common but vague faith. We perceive that through their rituals of inclusion and exclusion, and especially through their remarkably similar ways of punishing dissent and expelling heretics.

Alan Jacobs

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