Durkheim's theory of mental categories: A review of the evidence

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28 Scopus citations


Durkheim hypothesized that basic categories of thought are based on society as their model, and that these mental representations arise from participation in society's totemic rites. This proposition is evaluated in light of recent research on the cognitive architecture of newborns and infants. The evidence suggests that presocialized infants possess mental representations of not only the physical world but also the minds of others and even the sui generis quality of collectivities. This review concludes that the Durkheimian theory of the social origin of mind has little empirical support and suggests that the sociology of mental life needs to be radically retheorized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-408
Number of pages14
JournalAnnual Review of Sociology
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognition
  • Culture
  • Durkheim
  • Internalization
  • Socialization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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