Tensional Individuality: A Reassessment of Gabriel Tarde’s Sociology

Christian Borch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)153-172
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Published online: 6. October 207


  • Durkheim
  • Hypnosis
  • Individuality
  • Imitation
  • Mimesis
  • Monadology
  • Psychologism
  • Suggestion
  • Tarde

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