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The subject of the study is the evolution of Durkheim’s views on society, the further development of his ideas on the part of his eminent followers (Mauss and Halbwchs) as well as the reception of Durkheim’s ideas on the part of sociologists and anthropologists beyond the narrow circle of his disciples. The focus of the analysis is the problem of the relationship between society and nature. The contradictions in Durkheim’s ideas of society and the failure of his attempt to combine biologism („the strife for existence“) and moralism are discussed. Durkheim finds a solution in the separation of society from nature and its description as a reality sui generis. „Social facts“ are declared to be creations of „collective conscience“; material things, in their social being are transformed into a purely passive element (substrate). Human „masses“ become a kind of „substrate“ as well. Durkheim’s disciples keep this conceptual frame, whereas other Durkheim adherents change it substantially in various directions. In the whole Durkheim tradition, however, (sociology and anthropology) society has been interpreted as entirely separated from nature –in biological and telluric aspect. So, Durkheimian, and mainstream sociology altogether, turn out to be theoretically unprepared for the arising ecological problems and face the attacks of reductionist „biosociology“ of the last several decades. So contemporary development brings us back to the Durkheim’s initial dilemma about the relationship between the natural and the social.
Keywords: Durkheim, Mauss, Halbwachs, Malinowski, Radcliff-Brown, Levi-Strauss, sociology, anthropology, society, nature, biological