Tensional Individuality: A Reassessment of Gabriel Tarde’s Sociology

Christian Borch*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-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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