The recent revival of Gabriel Tarde’s sociology has generated conflicting interpretations of his work. According to one camp, Tarde’s sociology is reducible to a psychologism that merits no present-day sociological interest. By contrast, other scholars argue that Tarde’s work remains of great analytical value because it presents an anti-essentialist conception of the individual as being plastic and moldable. In this paper, I critically discuss each of these interpretations. Further, I argue that a careful reading of Tarde reveals a rather more complex notion of individuality than has been recognized in the recent reception of his work. Specifically, I suggest that Tarde’s sociology proposes a notion of individuality according to which the individual is understood as given in a tensional relationship between mimesis and anti-mimesis, that is, between retaining some internal core and being subject to external influence.
Bibliographical notePublished online: 6. October 207