Figure del preindividuale. Una lettura di Émile Durkheim attraverso Gilbert Simondon

Lorenzo Bruni, Matteo Santarelli


This paper aims at analyzing Émile Durkheim’s theory of the relation between the individual and the social through the lenses of Gilbert Simondon’s concept of preindividual. Simondon defines the individual as a reality of the possibility, which makes possible the emergence of new collective and psychical individuations. We will employ the concept of preindividual in order to discuss some aspects of Durkheim’s theory and in order to open the path to an original comparison between Simondon’s ontology and George Mead’s social theory, which will be just sketched in the final section of the paper. Specifically, both the discussion of Durkheim and Mead point to a possible sociological translation of Simondon’s ontological concept of preindividual. In the first part we will discuss Simondon’s definition and articulation of the concept of preindividual. In the second part we will employ this concept in order to discuss Durkheim’s understanding of the relation between the social and the individual. By focusing on the 1912’s volume The elementary forms of religious life, we aim at showing how the tension between the individual and social in Durkheim’s thought paves the way to dynamic and collective processes, through which new social relations and new individuations arise. Specifically, we will discuss the phenomena of ‘collective effervescence’ described by Durkheim by means of Simondon’s concept of the preindividual. Through this discussion we aim at highlighting two impasses in Durkheim theory: his definition of the individual consciousnesses; the unclear role played by symbolism in relation to preindividual phenomena. In the last part of the paper we will sketch preliminarily a possible overcoming of Durkheim’s impasses through a convergence between Mead and Simondon.

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