Ritual, narrative and time: Bridging between Durkheim and Ricoeur

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Paul Ricoeur’s theory of the narrative constitution of time, and Emile Durkheim’s conception of the ritual construction of time, seem, at least on first examination, incommensurable. While their important and influential theories of the social constitution of time are not easily harmonised, it is possible to construct several bridges between the two, such that they may at least be brought into conversation with one another (a dialogue Ricoeur himself seemed keen to avoid). While the two theories may contradict one another, if we look at the relationship between ritual and narrative, we find unexpected points of possible convergence where bridges may be built. We find that ritual and narrative are themselves not entirely distinct from one another, and even sometimes difficult to disentangle. Further, narratives of the past require the calendar (itself owing much to its ritual heritage) to provide a structure for, and a way of marking, the flow of time. Conversely, ritual practices often act as carriers of narrative, and assisting the transmission of narratives from generation to generation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-230
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Classical Sociology
Issue number3
Early online date9 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


  • Categories
  • Durkheim
  • epistemology
  • narrative
  • Ricoeur
  • ritual
  • time


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