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1In 1964, in volume 15, the third series of L’Année sociologique, Raymond Boudon published his first article in the journal, in collaboration with André Davidovitch (Davidovitch and Boudon 1964). In 2013, his last, posthumous article, entitled “La science aux sources des faux savoirs dans l’espace public” (“Science as a Source of False Beliefs in the Public Domain”), was published a few months after his death, and brought to a close fifty years of publications and involvement in the journal founded by Émile Durkheim over a century ago (Boudon 2013). During these fifty years, the publishing and institutional landscape of French sociology has changed radically. The discipline, which was still on the margins and barely institutionalized in the years following the Second World War, has become established in most French universities. It is served by dozens of journals, both general and specialist in their scope, and assembles almost a thousand sociologists from diverse institutions (Chenu 2002; Heilbron 2015). [1] It has become pertinent to ask about the position of L’Année sociologique—which formerly held a monopoly in the field—in this academic and publishing landscape. How has the canonical journal of French sociology navigated this half century? What transformations has it undergone during this period? Has it retained its generalist and critical aims, as intended by Durkheim, while holding onto the national and international fame that it enjoyed from its beginnings? Or has it become, under Boudon’s guidance, the journal of a specific theoretical school, namely that of methodological individualism?

2This article contends that, on the one hand, the last fifty years have seen the journal lose a significant amount of its original particularity, in favor of a standardization that responds to the increased competition and saturation of the French sociological publishing landscape. On the other hand, the academic trajectory of the journal has oscillated between maintaining a generalist identity, with more of a basis in institutionalized sociology than before, and other tendencies that retain a connection with the journal’s Durkheimian origins. Finally, although Boudon’s intellectual brand has made itself felt, through specific networks and institutions, the journal has retained a theoretical openness that distinguishes it from other journals in the field.

Methodological preamble: A bibliometric approach

3Committing to paper half a century of a journal’s history, in the limited space of an article, requires specific methodological tools. [2] The approach used in this article is strictly quantitative and, more specifically, bibliometric (Rostaing 1996; Gingras 2014)—we refer here to the definition of bibliometrics provided by Yves Gingras (2014, 9): “a method of research that consists in using academic publications and their citations as an indicator of academic production and its uses.” [3] This approach is useful as it makes it possible to observe the transformations in academic production based on quantitative indicators, and over a long period. [4] It requires the use of sources that permit such an approach. We used Thomson Web of Science (hereafter “WoS”), which covers the social sciences, with recognized biases (Archambault et al. 2006). [5] However, WoS does not actually include L’Année sociologique, in itself. Although it is possible to find the citations referring to L’Année sociologique in the database (or rather, in the journals that are indexed by WoS), it was necessary to supplement this with data relating specifically to the journal. We therefore created a purpose-built database for L’Année sociologique between 1964 and 2013, which includes details of articles and their authors. The intersection between this database and WoS constitutes the empirical grounding of this article.

Standardization and openness in a canonical journal

4An initial approach to studying the transformations of a publication such as L’Année sociologique over fifty years might be to cross-reference scientometric and quantitative data and indicators relating to the journal’s academic production, with a consideration of material bibliography (Varry 2011). A journal is of course a site of academic publications, but it is also an original published object, characterized by a certain format and a certain internal organization. L’Année sociologique was historically a highly identifiable publication among journals, owing to the form that Durkheim had given it, which combined ‘original essays’ [“mémoires originaux”], often of considerable length, and a section of critical bibliography, which occupied the majority of the annual issue. [6] The journal had the same format in the mid-1960s when Raymond Boudon published in it for the first time. Half a century later, although its title remains the same, the journal that readers hold in their hands has little in common with the original Durkheimian format. During these decades, the journal underwent a major evolution, transforming the publication deeply, in a way that aligned it with the standard format of social sciences journals. Firstly, from being published annually—as its title suggested—the journal started to be published biannually (every six months), starting in 1995. [7] The imposing annual volume of more than 500 pages was replaced by two issues of roughly half the length.

5This change in the publication’s format and rhythm was also accompanied by a radical transformation in the journal’s content. The distinctive balance between ‘original submissions’ and ‘bibliographic analyses and critical notes’ was altered in the 1970s–80s by reducing the content in the latter category (see Figure 1). The bibliographic section was dominant in the journal’s first series, and even made up a large part of the journal’s identity (Müller 1993). In the 1960s and 1970s, it still took up the majority of the journal, at times up to three quarters of the total. It pursued Durkheim’s very specific ambition: to cover all the domains of sociology. For example, the bibliographic section occupied two thirds of the volume for 1970 and was divided into six sections, which were themselves divided further into sub-sections, largely following the original classification set down by Durkheim. [8] Nonetheless, the tendency over this period was for a decrease in the bibliographic section. It went from taking up an average of 69% of the volume over the period 1964–1973, to 53 % between 1974 and 1983. This reduction in the bibliographic analyses continued and accelerated in the following decades. From 1995, it never exceeded 15% of the volumes, and some issues had no bibliographic section at all—over all publications in the decade from 2004 to 2013, the average space taken up by the bibliographic section was 5% of the total, and it was then devoted only to the theme of the issue. [9]

Figure 1

Proportion taken up by the bibliographic analyses in L’Année sociologique, third series, 1964–2013 (three-year moving average, in %)

Figure 1

Proportion taken up by the bibliographic analyses in L’Année sociologique, third series, 1964–2013 (three-year moving average, in %)

6The first section of the journal, which historically contained the ‘original essays,’ was transformed first by the addition of new sub-sections (‘studies’ [études], which were generally shorter in length, or, in the 1970s, ‘Works of the French Sociological Society’ [Travaux de la Société française de sociologie]), [10] then, with the reform of 1995, by the disappearance of these distinctions between types of articles. This transformation began, from 1975, with the publication of thematic issues—subsequently, a distinction remained between the articles published within the context of this theme (which became the ‘studies’) and the articles without reference to the theme. In this way, the journal functioned like many generalist journals in the social sciences, which combine thematic articles with “varia.”

7A detailed examination of this first section of L’Année sociologique over fifty years also illustrates these transformations. Between 1964 and 2013, 567 articles were published in the journal. [11] However, this number conceals a notable alteration in the annual production of articles. Until 1975, the number of articles per issue varied between 2 and 5, some of which were the long ‘essays’ in the original Durkheimian tradition. [12] Over the following decades, we see an increase in the number of articles and a reduction in their length, which leans towards the standard size of articles in the social sciences: there were about 10 articles per issue in the 1980s, then an average of about 17 articles per year over two issues. [13] This progression was inevitably accompanied by an increase in the number of authors publishing in the journal over this period. Therefore, in total, 514 different authors contributed to these 567 articles. From one decade to the next, the number of different authors increased substantially: only 38 authors published a ‘essay’ or ‘study’ in L’Année sociologique between 1964 and 1973. There were 181 between 1994 and 2003, and 172 between 2004 and 2013 (for an equivalent number of articles over the two decades). During the fifty years under consideration, the vast majority of these authors only contributed one article to the journal (434 out of 514, or 84% of them). Only 80 authors published two articles or more, and 15 published four or more. We would note here that Boudon was the primary contributor to the journal throughout the half century, with 11 articles published (including a posthumous one, and to which we should add two introductions to thematic issues). [14]

8This large number of authors—in relation to the number of articles—who contributed to L’Année sociologique over half a century, also informs us about the journal’s favored mode of production of sociological knowledge. In fact, almost 90% of the articles published in the journal between 1964 and 2013 had a single author. Over the whole period studied, the average number of authors per article is 1.16—and there is no notable change in this between the 1960s and the 2000s (over the course of the five decades the figure varies between 1.21 and 1.14). The journal does not share in the global trend towards collaboration, which, admittedly, is more relevant to the natural sciences and certain more formalized social sciences—such as economics or psychology—but has also had an effect in sociology, especially in the United States (Gingras 2002). Since the 1980s, more than half of articles published in American sociology journals have at least 2 authors and, more broadly, in the social sciences, the average number of authors was almost 3 in the 2000s (Gingras 2014, 41). Nonetheless, we should note that L’Année sociologique is in this respect not dissimilar to other major French sociology journals, which are only marginally more inclined to publish articles with several authors. [15] The typical model for an article published by the journal remains one written by a single author, and the sociology published in L’Année sociologique is still, in this respect, close to the other humanities subjects, such as philosophy or history.

Institutional affiliations

9Next, we will consider the institutional affiliations of these 500 or so authors who contributed to L’Année sociologique over half a century, while remembering that many of them have several affiliations (for example, because of their membership to a research center partnered with both a university and the Centre national de la recherche scientifique [CNRS] [National Center for Scientific Research]). [16] Then, we can calculate the proportions of institutional affiliations, not in relations to authors, but in relation to the articles (and their total can exceed 100%). Between 1964 and 2013, 29.5% of the articles had at least one author affiliated with the CNRS, 26.6% affiliated to a Parisian university, [17] and 20% affiliated to a provincial university. A fifth of these articles had (at least) one author affiliated to a foreign institution (this almost always relates to a university). Next come the grandes écoles (10.6%)—especially the various Écoles normales supérieures (ENS)—, the École des hautes études on sciences sociales (EHESS) (School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences) (5.5%) [18] and other institutions of higher education and research (7.2%). Less than 2% of articles have an author affiliated to an institution or organization that does not belong to (higher) education or research.

10This preponderance of the CNRS, while it relates to a structural fact about academic employment in the social sciences in the post-War period (Heilbron 2015), must still be analyzed with care. This is because, as mentioned above, research centers are mixed spaces, and it is hard to determine whether the authors who are members of them belong to their university or to the CNRS. The relatively low figure for provincial universities, combined with the fact that two thirds of the CNRS research centers in sociology are also based in Paris, as are a large number of the major grandes écoles and other institutions (Conservatoire national des arts et métiers [CNAM] [National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts], ENS Ulm or ENS Cachan, Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales [INALCO] [National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilizations], Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques [INSEE] [National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies], etc.), constitutes a significant indicator of the domination of the French capital with regard to the origin of the articles’ authors. We can also observe that, among the Parisian universities, two universities dominate, namely Paris-IV and Paris-V—with 12% of the articles having at least one author affiliated to one or the other of these universities.

11The evolution of the respective parts of these different institutions over the half century studied allows us to uncover significant transformations in the origins of the contributors to the journal. The main transformation is the increase in the presence of the Parisian universities alongside a reduction in the presence of the CNRS. Taking 1995 as a reference point, when L’Année sociologique adopted its new publishing strategy, we observe that the articles with at least one affiliation to a Parisian university go from 18% over the period 1964 and 1994 to 33% over the period 1995 to 2013, whereas, for the CNRS, the figure decreases from one third of articles to one quarter of articles (see Table 1). Over the same two periods, the role of provincial universities shows an unremarkable increase, [19] in contrast to the role of the EHESS, which doubles (going from 3% to 7% of articles). This progression in the number of authors affiliated to a university, whether Parisian or provincial, at the expense of authors affiliated to the CNRS, belongs to a context of change in the employment of sociologists and demonstrates that French sociology was increasingly based in universities (Chenu 2002; Heilbron 2015). The Parisian nature of this rebalancing in favor of universities can be explained largely by the preponderance of authors affiliated to Paris-IV and Paris-V in this second period (30 of the 38 affiliations to Paris-IV pertain to the years 1995–2013—see, below, the importance of the Sorbonne and the Groupe d’étude des méthodes de l’analyse sociologique de la Sorbonne [GEMASS] [Sorbonne Study Group on the Methods of Sociological Analysis]). Besides, the increase in the number of articles with at least one author affiliated to a foreign university (from 19% to 23%) relates to the growing international openness of the journal, which we discuss in the next paragraph.

Table 1

Institutional affiliations of the authors of articles in L’Année sociologique, third series, 1964-2013

Distribution of affiliations over the period (%)
Institutional affiliation1964–19941995–2013
Parisian universities17.932.8
Foreign institutions19.123.2
Provincial universities18.321.4
Grandes écoles9.811.1
No institution6.46.0
Other institutions10.25.1
Non-university institutions3.00.3

Institutional affiliations of the authors of articles in L’Année sociologique, third series, 1964-2013

An increasing internationalization

12Out of the 514 different authors who produced at least one article between 1964 and 2013, 111 were foreign (in the sense of being attached to a foreign institution, rather than in terms of their nationality)—or slightly more than one in five. However, only one article in six is produced by foreign authors (the difference is explained by the fact that foreign authors are more likely than French authors to work collaboratively). However, we must also note that the journal became more international over the course of the half century. In the 2000s (or rather, between 2004 and 2013), almost one in five authors (18.8%) was foreign. This is double the proportion of foreign authors in the journal between 1964 and 1973. The rate of progression is relatively constant across the period under consideration.

13Examining the authors’ origins in more detail, we can observe that the internationalization of L’Année sociologique initially involved Western Francophone countries, namely, in decreasing order of the respective number of contributors, Switzerland, Canada, and Belgium. [20] Over the whole period studied, half the foreign authors who contributed to L’Année sociologique were from one of these three countries. However, this proportion decreased over the period, [21] which indicates the growing internationalization of the journal. This was manifested in an increase in the number of countries of origin for the articles’ authors: between 1964 and 1983, only eight countries other than France were involved. Between 1994 and 2013, this almost doubled, to a figure of 17 different countries. From the 1990s, the journal experienced an increase in the number of American authors. Out of a total of 18 articles written by an author from the United States, 13 of these were published after 1990. Nonetheless, the internationalization also involved a greater openness to other European countries. New partners such as Italy, Germany, or the United Kingdom, took on importance. From the end of the 1990s, the option of publishing articles in English, even though the number of these articles remained small, clearly supported the process of internationalization. [22] We must, however, note that the internationalization was limited to the Northern regions, namely North America and Europe, whereas the global South provided almost no contributors at all, with the journal remaining rooted in the dominant zones of the world’s sociological production (Mosbah-Natanson and Gingras 2014). Between 1964 and 2013, only four articles had authors from more distant regions (three of which were published after 1995). [23]

Women in the journal

14When studying the transformations of the journal over fifty years, we must also take account of a now unavoidable dimension, namely the place of women in the academic sphere. The tendency in the (social) sciences, which has been extensively documented in various dimensions of academic activity, is for an increase in the proportion of women involved, despite the continuing existence of inequalities (Larivière et el. 2013). The question then arises, whether L’Année sociologique follows this same tendency. The first indicator, that of the composition of the editorial board, [24] indicates an advance, albeit a small one. In the 1960s, the only woman on the editorial board, which consisted of about 15 members, was Viviane Isambert-Jamati, at a period when, admittedly, women were still only present in small numbers in research and higher education. It was not until the late 1990s that more women joined the editorial board, and were better represented on it. In 2013, there were (only) 3 women out of 16 members on the editorial board.

15The second classic indicator is that of the proportion of women among the authors of articles published in the journal. Surprisingly, we observe a high degree of stability over the five decades. Between 1964 and 2013, a little more than one article in five had at least one female author (21.5%). This proportion varies between 20% and 25%—the maximum point was reached in the 1980s. The last three decades have therefore not seen any significant increase in the role of women in the published content of L’Année sociologique, despite a slight increase between the 1990s and the start of the 2010s. The significant fact in these statistics, is undoubtedly this relatively large proportion of articles by women between 1960 and 1980. However, the journal still lags behind other contemporary social sciences journals in terms of female involvement (Boelaert et al. 2015, 30).

The sociological orientations of a generalist journal

16Although the elements discussed in the preceding paragraph can tell us about the functioning of the journal, its standardization, and the general characteristics of academic production published in it and of the authors associated with it, this does not allow us to specify the place occupied by the journal in French sociology over fifty years. L’Année sociologique was a crucially important journal in the inter-War period, but after the Second World War it was confronted with growing competition from the increased number of sociological journals, both generalist and specialist ones. [25] From the 1970s to the 2000s, several dozen new journals emerged, [26] following the morphological development of the discipline, first in terms of the number of academics linked to sociology institutionally and intellectually, and also in terms of the diversity of academic institutions (universities and other organizations) that employed sociologists and produced sociological work (Heilbron 2015).

Morphology of the editorial board

17This development, and its effect on the place of L’Année sociologique in French sociology, can be addressed with reference to the journal’s editorial board. The analysis of the editorial board’s morphology also casts light on the journal’s identity. [27] In the 1960s, however, there was no such board. There was instead a board of patrons or steering committee, which, at the beginning of the decade, assembled the “patrons” of French sociology, such as Georges Gurvitch, Raymond Aron, or Jean Stoetzel, [28] but also the student and disciple of Durkheim, Georges Davy, the legal specialist Jean Carbonnier, the specialist in labor studies, Pierre Naville, and the sociologists of religion, Émile Poulat and Gabriel Le Bras—while the rising stars of sociology, such as Alain Touraine, Michel Crozier, or Pierre Bourdieu, were kept away. Boudon, for his part, only joined the board in 1974, replacing Roger Bastide in the year he died. Between 1964 and 1983, this board gathered about 15 people for each issue. It was characterized by the heterogeneity and plurality of the institutional and disciplinary origins of its members. Considering the 21 members of this board between 1964 and 1983, we observe, on one hand, the significance of the Sorbonne’s Faculty of Arts & Humanities (later that of the Université Paris-Sorbonne), which provided 10 of its members, but also the Paris Law Faculty, with 5 members, followed by the CNRS with 3 members. This foundation of the journal in the “old” Sorbonne, rather than in the CNRS, which had been the site of the renewal of sociology after 1945 (Heilbron 2015), shows the very institutionalized and legitimate character of L’Année sociologique, which therefore remained largely based in the university system and in Paris. Only one non-Parisian university was represented on the board, and only at the start of the 1980s: this was the Université Bordeaux-II, with François Chazel, who became a member of the steering committee in 1983. The notable fact is this preponderance of legal specialists on the board: a quarter of the members of the board came from the Law Faculty, where, admittedly, they carried out teaching or research oriented around sociology. One of these, Jean Carbonnier, was President of the board before Boudon (Terré 2007, 556). Another major dimension of the editorial board was its relative interdisciplinarity, first because of the legal specialists who were trying to reconcile legal studies and sociology, but also because of the presence of a historian (Ernest Labrousse), a demographer (Alain Girard) or a linguist and ethnographer (Jacques Faublée). This relative disciplinary openness of the journal stemmed from a pre-institutionalized state of sociology, which only became an autonomous university discipline in France from the end of the 1950s. From this perspective, L’Année sociologique lagged behind institutional developments in sociology which were under way in the 1960s (Heilbron 2015).

18It was only at the start of the 1980s that the journal joined the institutional movement of sociology, and continued in its path towards standardization. It first did so in relation to its internal organization, by adopting an editorial board. Certain members of the steering committee were also on the editorial board, such as André Davidovitch, Jean Carbonnier, or Boudon. Yet, out of the 33 members of the board in this period, we observe the disappearance of the legal specialists. From 1980 to 2013, only three board members were legal specialists (including Jean Carbonnier, who died in 2003). Out of the 24 new members who entered the editorial board, there was only one legal specialist in economic law, Marie-Anne Frison-Roche. Disciplines outside of sociology were also very poorly represented. [29] The other members of the editorial board, made up of a new generation, were all affiliated to sociology and, in this respect, L’Année sociologique became a more “sociological” journal. This disciplinary shrinkage of the editorial board directly follows the tendency towards an institutionalization of sociology in universities in these last few decades (Houdeville 2007). The board of 2013 was characterized both by a specific academic grounding (GEMASS, to which we shall return), but also by maintaining a plurality of institutional affiliations, which had become exclusively sociological: out of 16 members, 5 were researchers with the CNRS, 4 were professors in Parisian universities, 2 in provincial universities, 3 were affiliated to other large Parisian institutions, (ENS Cachan and CNAM) and 2 were from foreign universities. The composition of the editorial board therefore remained marked by a Parisian orientation. Of course we can note that, while in the 1960s L’Année sociologique could still, despite the competition from new journals, gather on its board of patrons a significant number of the leading sociologists of the period, fifty years later there can be no question of such a degree of representation, when sociology is present in several dozen universities and other institutions of higher education and research.

L’Année sociologique, a generalist journal in sociology

19The expansion of sociology in France over recent decades has led to an increase in academic production, which is demonstrated by the creation of many new journals, as we have mentioned. Most of them are specialized in a specific topic (Blondiaux et al. 2012, 239 ff.), whereas L’Année sociologique has always presented itself as a generalist journal with the original goal of covering all the domains of sociology. [30] Analyzing its evolution over fifty years requires us to question its maintenance of this status as a generalist journal: do the articles published over this period cover, in their subject matter, the different domains of sociology? To try to grasp the general academic and intellectual orientations of this journal, I took two steps: first, a thematic coding of all 567 articles, [31] and second, an analysis of the thematic issues after 1975 (which represent the vast majority of issues after this date).

20The analysis of Table 2 shows that the journal remained, over the period studied, a generalist journal, even though certain themes became less prevalent in favor of others. The diversity of themes addressed in the articles proves that L’Année sociologique is not limited to a sub-domain of sociology. However, a certain number of major axes of research stand out, which give the journal a distinctive character over this period. The first is the importance attributed to theoretical and methodological questions in sociology, but also to the history of the discipline itself: over the decades, between a fifth and a little more than a third of the articles belong to this category, thereby constituting the journal’s foremost thematic pole. We can note that between the 1980s and the start of the 2000s, this pole became more pronounced, owing to the importance attributed both to the history of Durkheimism, and to the theoretical discussions inspired by the works of Boudon (we shall return to these two points). The second major axis, devoted to questions of law, justice, and criminality, and accounting for one in seven articles, continues the old Durkheimian orientation, which was sustained, among other reasons, because of the prevalence of legal specialists in the editorial board. Next comes the economic domain, questions of morality and faith, and themes relating to culture and education (roughly one article in ten, for these different topics). The domains of politics, the family, science, and knowledge, are relatively marginal in the journal. From one decade to the next, we observe a large degree of variability between the prevalence of certain themes, which can be explained largely by the series of thematic issues over the period studied.

Table 2

Distribution of themes in the articles published in L’Année sociologique, third series, 1964–2013

Distribution in articles by period (%)
Theory and history25,718,829,336,2
Law and criminality18,110,39,820,1
Morality and religion10,518,86,910,9
Culture, education3,85,121,86,3

Distribution of themes in the articles published in L’Année sociologique, third series, 1964–2013

21This generalist ambition is also found in the development of the thematic issues, which were published from 1975. Over the period 1975–2013, a large number of these were devoted to sub-disciplines of sociology, thereby seeking to produce a synthesis of sociological knowledge in a given domain. [32] We can cite, for example, the inaugural issue “Sociologie des migrations” (‘Sociology of Migration’) in 1975 edited by the demographer Alain Girard, the issue “Sociologie de la famille (1965–1985)” [33] (‘Sociology of the Family’),” edited by Jean Kellerhals and Louis Roussel in 1987, or the issue devoted to the “Sociologie de l’éducation” (‘Sociology of Education’) in 2000, edited by Marie Duru-Bellat. The journal therefore covered, over almost four decades, a large number of the discipline’s (sub-)domains: migration, the sciences, family, religion (more specifically Catholicism), arts and culture, communication, economics, etc. However, from the 1990s, although some thematic issues were still presented around sub-domains of sociology (on communication in 2001, on economics in 2005, or on consumption in 2011), the thematic topics of the issues were usually more precise and did not aspire to cover a whole sub-domain of sociology, but more specific objects. [34] The principal directions of the issues were then shared between themes connected to the specific research of the editors of the issue (for example, “Nation, nationalisme et citoyenneté,” [“Nation, Nationalism and Citizenship”], edited by Pierre Birnbaum in 1996, or “Au-delà de l’emploi… le travail” [‘The work beyond employment’], edited by Françoise Piotet in 2003), themes inspired by Boudon, or themes connected to the history of sociology (see below for these last two directions). Although this development did not betray the journal’s generalist aim with regard to the diversity of themes that were addressed, we can nonetheless analyze it as a form of renunciation of the journal’s traditional ambition towards synthesis, in favor of more specific topics or problematics. In this respect it followed in the same direction as other generalist sociology journals.

22However, over the last two decades in question, the journal was also able to explore “new paths,” as suggested by the title of an issue published in 2002. These new paths were numerous, and explored innovative and original domains or approaches (such as network analysis), while building on the acquired knowledge and history of the discipline. Michel Forsé and Simon Langlois (2002, 8) introduced the orientation of the issue mentioned above in the following terms: [35]

23Novelty is therefore always in debt to that which precedes it: new paths develop by developing an earlier idea, which has sometimes fallen out of use or is considered unimportant, but also criticizing it, not to mention the role played by borrowing from another discipline. Sociology is no exception to the rule. It is therefore not a simple matter to find these paths, especially if we do not have the benefit of a sufficient delay to tell the difference between that which seems to lead to a dead end, and that which seems to offer new perspectives.

24Therefore, although the sociology of law was already present in the journal, an issue published in 2003 and edited by Marie-Anne Frison-Roche proposed to explore “Le droit au féminin aujourd’hui” (‘Women and Law Today’), combining historical perspectives and studies on contemporary developments. In the domain of the sociology of the arts, but also of culture, L’Année sociologique has been innovative by devoting issues to relatively marginal domains of contemporary French sociology, but which have been developing rapidly for some years. We can cite, for example, the 2002 issue edited by Pierre Parlebas, “Sociologie du sport en France aujourd’hui” (“The Sociology of Sports in France Today”). This issue addresses “the sporadic development of the sociology of sport,” insisting that it “is a discipline at a nascent stage, which is finding its way” (Parlebas 2002, 245). Similarly, Hyacinthe Ravet, sociologist and musicologist, and Bruno Brévan edited an issue in 2010 entitled “Sociologies de la musique: Relecture et voies nouvelles” (“The Sociology of Music: Reevaluation and New Perspectives”). They take stock of a domain whose “true development we can situate, in France, from the 1980s, with the publication of several studies based on empirical inquiries” (Ravet and Brévan 2010, 265). In 2011, military sociology was the subject of a collection entitled “Valeurs, métiers et action: évolutions et permanences de l’institution militaire” (“Values, Profession, and Action: Developments and Constancies in the Military Institution”). In his introduction, Éric Letonturier emphasizes the “constantly marginal and fragile nature of this sociological specialism, despite its longevity” (Letonturier 2011, 268). These different issues share an ambition to explore and delineate domains that may have experienced a recent growth, but which have not obtained the degree of recognition that might be expected for them, especially within other sociology journals. Accordingly, Letonturier writes, with regard to his own domain, that “few sociology journals have devoted a whole publication to this topic and to the problems attached to it” (ibid., 267). Other themes such as morality or collective beliefs, which had been significant for Durkheim, are also treated in depth, inviting us to reflect more directly on the legacy of Durkheim, which is still present in the journal.

Durkheimian continuities

25As it would not be possible to analyze each of the thematic issues published by L’Année sociologique, we have chosen to focus on two specific themes. As we have already emphasized, the two themes most abundantly represented in the journal over the period studied are: first, questions of theory, methodology, but also the history of sociology; and second, questions of law and justice. This dual focus can be addressed through a hypothesis of Durkheimian continuities.

26Of course, L’Année sociologique is no longer a Durkheimian journal in the strict sense, and has not been such for a long time. The last original Durkheimian, Georges Davy, a member of the board of patrons, died in 1976. Yet we must point out that the journal gradually took on another function, not that of carrying the torch of a form of Durkheimian study that had already been abandoned in the years after the Second World War, but that of becoming the site for writing this Durkheimian history. Like the journal centered around Frédéric Le Play, Les Études sociales, which went from being a journal influenced by Le Play to being a journal devoted to his history, L’Année sociologique became, over the last few decades, the principal medium for the history of French sociology. We should also note that the Revue française de sociologie, led by Philippe Besnard, had also been, at the end of the 1970s and in the 1980s, the site for the writing of this history. Nonetheless, it was L’Année sociologique that picked up the baton, around the 1990s–2000s. We can count a total of 6 issues devoted to this theme over the period 1977–2012, of which 5 focus on Durkheimism. [36] This interest in the history of Durkheimism takes place both in a context of the centenary of Durkheim’s works, but also within a development of the history of the social sciences over the last twenty or so years. [37] The journal also regularly publishes other articles on the history of French or foreign sociology, outside the context of the thematic issues. This orientation is also consistent with the “Sociologies” series edited by Boudon, which attributes a similar importance to the history of sociology (Langlois 2008). This emphasis on the history of sociology is combined with the publication of original texts, either unknown or barely known, by Durkheimians. These include, for example, Durkheim’s text on general sociology published in 1998 by Massimo Borlandi, and the texts by Marcel Mauss, edited by Jennifer Mergy in 2004. This publishing activity accentuates the historical/remembrance dimension of the journal. [38] Therefore, while L’Année sociologique did not become a journal on the history of sociology, it contributed substantially to writing this history.

27The journal was also characterized by the large amount of room it devoted to questions of law and crime. Durkheim, of course, attributed a considerable importance to these subjects in his construction of sociology. As a result, the sociology of law, which remains a relatively marginal discipline in French sociology, torn between its entrenchment in law faculties and its absence from sociology departments, was the topic of 6 issues between 1976 and 2009. [39] Over the whole half century in question, one article in seven focused on law, justice, or crime. One of the reasons for this presence of the sociology of law in the journal was the role played by Jean Carbonnier—president of the journal’s board in the 1960s–1970s—as well as that of André Davidovitch—the journal’s secretary, whose specialist area of research was criminal sociology. [40] The board also included, until the 1980s, several members from the Law Faculty, and the gradual replacement of these members of the board by sociologists did not reduce the journal’s interest in the sociology of law. Out of the 6 thematic issues devoted to the law, 5 were published after 1999, and one of these, devoted to Jean Carbonnier himself, demonstrates the remembrance dimension of the journal. We should, however, observe that the articles relating to criminal sociology became rarer after the death of André Davidovitch. Nonetheless, we must note the journal’s uniqueness with regard to the significant space that it devotes to the question of law and crime, which is also a distinctly Durkheimian area of interest.

The visibility of L’Année sociologique in French and international sociology

28A study of the journal’s transformations and content cannot be separated from an analysis of its reputation in the sphere of sociology and the social sciences, both in France and internationally. [41] The analysis of citations based on WoS, a major bibliometric tool (Martin 2000) provides a means of measuring this development. Although the biases of WoS, especially its emphasis on English-language journals, are well known (Archambault et al. 2006), it still offers a way to objectively consider the journal’s position within the academic sphere—the fact that the journal itself is not indexed does not pose any problem in this regard, since we are measuring its presence, in the form of citations, in other social science journals.

29The first observation is that the citations referring to the journal increase over the period in question. We can also point to a very recent increase in its reputation, since 45% of these citations are concentrated across the last 15 years (1999–2013)—and 56% of them relate to the journal in its new format (since 1995). However, to conclude that there is a transformative effect or a substantially different level of reputation in these later years could be simplistic, owing to the largely artificial nature of this result. In fact, the transformations in the WoS database over the latest decades have automatically created an increase in the total pool of journals that cite L’Année sociologique (Mosbah-Natanson and Gingras 2014). [42] Although the journal is cited, over the whole period, by more than 650 journals, a little under a quarter of these account for more than 70% of these citations (this result resembles the classic equation of Lotka’s law). Predictably, because of the clear linguistic bias created by the journal’s Francophone nature, we see that the main journals that cite L’Année sociologique are French-language journals (in first place, the Revue française de sociologie, followed by Sociologie du travail, then the Cahiers internationaux de sociologie) [43] or multilingual journals for which French is one of their publishing languages. (such as the Archives européennes de sociologie or Social Compass). [44] That does not mean that the journal is not cited in English-language journals: 52% of the citations listed on WoS belonged to articles published in English and only 41% from articles published in French. Yet this result, considered in light of the overwhelming domination of English-language journals on WoS, paradoxically constitutes a confirmation of the journal’s Francophone grounding.

30Next arises the question of knowing more precisely what is being cited when these journals cite L’Année sociologique. In fact, as might be supposed from the journal’s memorial dimension, the first result of this analysis is that around 40% of the citations recorded by WoS are citations of Durkheimians in the strict sense—and mainly of Durkheim and Mauss, who are the most cited authors, out of all authors over the five decades in question. [45] We must also distinguish between citations with regard to the language of the citing publication, since, although the phenomenon described here concerns the totality of articles citing L’Année sociologique, it is even more pronounced in the English-language articles, whereas the French-language articles still predominantly cite classic Durkheimian texts, but as a smaller proportion. [46] The contemporary impact of the journal again relates largely to citations that are made to the first and second series of L’Année sociologique. A separate study would be needed for analyzing the uses that contemporary works make of classic sociological texts (between, for example, works on the history of the human sciences [47] and contemporary updates of classical authors), but we must observe that L’Année sociologique benefits from its century-long status as a founding journal which, in its time, was the home of the foremost works of French sociology. [48]

31The following remarkable fact emerges from citation analysis: although we shall address the journal’s Boudonian dimension in the next paragraph, we note here that the two most cited articles from the period 1964–2013 are signed by authors who were unconnected with the Boudonian circle (Table 3). These are an article by Pierre Bourdieu, “Le marché des biens symboliques” (“The Market of Symbolic Goods”), published in the issue of 1971 (with 141 citations in WoS), and Michel Callon’s article “Éléments pour une sociologie de la traduction: la domestication des coquilles Saint-Jacques et des marins pêcheurs dans la baie de Saint-Brieuc” (“Some elements of a sociology of translation: domestication of the scallops and the fishermen in the St Brieuc Bay”), published in 1986 (with 102 citations). The contemporary reputation of L’Année sociologique is therefore based on two sociologists who each published only once in the journal and were engaged in specific theoretical constructions. [49] In these two cases, the relation between, on one hand, the published article, and on the other, the medium of dissemination that is the journal, must not be described too simplistically. The medium of publication for these two texts, in this case L’Année sociologique, has little to do with the construction of their fame. The next most cited authors have far fewer citations, with 30 citations for Pierre Lascoumes, 25 for Pierre-Michel Menger, and only 24 for Boudon. This low level of visibility for Boudon invites us to reflect on his influence on the journal’s movements over the fifty years in question. [50]

Table 3

Authors cited more than 20 times in WOS between 1964 and 2013 for their contribution to L’Année sociologique

Author citedNumber of citations
Émile Durkheim293
Marcel Mauss264
Pierre Bourdieu141
Michel Callon102
Henri Hubert71
Robert Hertz48
François Simiand33
Pierre Lascoumes30
Roger Bastide25
Pierre-Michel Menger25
Raymond Boudon24
Antoine Meillet22
Michel Forsé21

Authors cited more than 20 times in WOS between 1964 and 2013 for their contribution to L’Année sociologique

Has L’Année sociologique become “Boudonian”?

32Questioning Boudon’s role in the journal over the last decades requires a study of the development of the journal with reference to several indicators. Boudon presided over the journal for a quarter of a century, becoming president of the board in 1977 and stepping down in 2003, when he retired from the Université Paris-Sorbonne. Although he is the author with the greatest number of contributions to the journal over fifty years in question, we cannot, however, assume that it was Boudon’s main place of publication, as we see for journals attached to a particular school, such as Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales. [51] Instead, Boudon published widely in other journals. Yet he made his mark on the journal, both institutionally and theoretically, and this can be seen even after his departure from the journal at the start of the 2000s.

33This mark was manifested first in the journal’s internal organization, and its editorial board. As we saw above, although the journal’s board of patrons, in the 1960s–1970s, gathered certain major figures from French sociology of the day, with a specific grounding in the Law Faculty, the 1980s and following years saw the board take on a more sociological direction. However, it maintained a great institutional and theoretical diversity. These (new) members were not, in any case, unequivocal supporters of methodological individualism or of the Boudonian theory of rationality. [52] Nonetheless, the preponderance of sociologists from the Sorbonne and/or members of the GEMASS, the research center founded by Boudon in 1971, increased during this period. In 1983, when the journal acquired an editorial board, only 2 out of its 9 members belonged to the GEMASS and taught at the Sorbonne (namely Boudon and François Chazel). In 2003, when he left the leadership of the journal, out of 16 members, 6 taught at the Sorbonne or were members of the GEMASS. The editorial board, although it maintained an institutional and theoretical pluralism, was therefore aligned, over the recent period, with the institutions in which Boudon played a major role. This institutional grounding was also manifested in the increase, in the journal, in the proportion of authors connected to the Université Paris-Sorbonne or to the GEMASS. Between 1977 (the year when Boudon took on the presidency of the board of patrons) and 2003 (the year of his departure), the affiliations of authors to the GEMASS went from being almost nonexistent to more than 10%. This figure then increased further to reach a level of one article in five between 2004 and 2013, proving that the institutional grounding was more significant than the direct influence of Boudon himself—we should also mention here that the GEMASS involved figures such as François Chazel or Jean Baechler, whom we cannot link straightforwardly, in terms of their theory, to Boudon.

34This reality of the journal’s grounding in a Boudonian institution corresponds, if not with the journal’s theoretical dimension, then with its thematic orientations. Although, as we have seen, in the 1970s–1980s, the journal’s ambition, as it appears from its thematic issues, was to cover a considerable number of domains or sub-domains of sociology, including very diverse theoretical approaches, in the 1990s–2000s a relatively large number of issues were published which were broadly of Boudonian inspiration. These issues, often led by former students of Boudon (but not always), were also more specialized than the thematic issues devoted to a sub-domain of sociology, and then addressed specific epistemological questions or took up issues that were typical of the Boudonian intellectual path (for example, “Argumentation et sciences sociales” [“Argumentation and the Social Sciences”] in 1994–1995, “Le juste: normes et idéaux” [“The Just: Norms and Ideals”] in 1995, “L’explication de l’action sociale” [“Explaining Social Action”] in 2005, “L’abstraction en sociologie” [“Abstraction in Sociology”] in 2006–2007, or “Les croyances collectives” [“Collective Beliefs”] in 2010). Boudon also contributed an article to these thematic issues on several occasions, thereby marking them with his intellectual authority. [53]

Boudon’s place in French sociology: A comparison between three French sociology journals

35The elements discussed above, although demonstrating the impact of Boudon on the journal, its organization, and directions, can provide only a partial picture of the intellectual influence that he exerted on the sociological production published in L’Année sociologique. For a more complete picture, we can once again make use of citation analysis by studying the references that are made to Boudon in the journal’s articles between 1984 and 2013. We have chosen to finish this study with two final elements: first, by comparing the data for L’Année sociologique with those available for the Revue française de sociologie and for Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, and second, by adding the references to Pierre Bourdieu. Our hypothesis was that we would find more substantial references to Boudon in L’Année sociologique than in the Revue française de sociologie, a journal of the center ground, and therefore a still smaller presence of references to Boudon in Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, as this journal was attached to the Bourdieusian school.

36The results largely confirm our hypothesis. Over the relevant period (1984–2013), a little less than one article in three published in L’Année sociologique cites Boudon at least once (30.7%). [54] One article in seven published in the Revue française de sociologie cites Boudon. There is an even more striking contrast with Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales: less than 1% of the articles published in this journal cite Boudon. Predictably, for the citations of Pierre Bourdieu, we find the inverse hierarchy, but with less pronounced differences. Although one in three articles published in Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales cites Pierre Bourdieu, the total for the Revue française de sociologie is still as high as 27%, and a little more surprisingly, slightly over than one article in five for L’Année sociologique. This last journal, although it was not, like Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, attached to a particular school, was still a journal marked by a specific sociologist, Boudon. The Revue française de sociologie is an intermediate case that demonstrates the respective significance of these two sociologists, Boudon and Bourdieu, in the sphere of French sociology.

37In the case of L’Année sociologique, which is our main interest here, we need to ask whether this “Boudonian” orientation of the journal varies over the period studied, and in particular, whether the weight of these citations of Boudon increases over time. By comparing the decades 1984–1993, 1994–2003, and 2004–2013, a hiatus appears in the mid-1990s. Therefore a little less than one article in four cites him in the first period (23.5%). For the next two decades, one article in three cites him, with a slight increase between the two (32.4% in 1994–2003, 33.9% in 2004–2013). The journal therefore became more “Boudonian” over time, with an increasing presence of the themes connected to his work in the issues and articles that were published, and a logical consequence of this was the increase in the total number of citations of Boudon. However, in analyzing the spread of these references, we note their great variability. They are concentrated in the issues devoted to themes connected to or influenced by the thought of Boudon, and mentioned above. For example, all the articles in the issue on “L’explication de l’action sociale” (2005) cite Boudon. This is also the case for three quarters of the articles in the two issues entitled “L’abstraction en sociologie” (2006 and 2007). In contrast, the issues that have little to do with Boudon’s intellectual universe barely cite him, if at all: for example, in volume 53 (2003), which contains an issue on women and law and another on employment, only 12% of the articles cite Boudon. Once again, these results demonstrate, on one hand, the weight of the Boudonian influence on the journal founded by Durkheim, and on the other, that the journal, which cannot be limited to this figure, did not become a journal attached to a school in the strict sense.


38What would Émile Durkheim have thought of the fate of his journal in 2013, that is, 115 years after its first publication? He would first have recognized that it had lost its virtual monopoly as the organ of French sociology, a status that it had retained for several decades and until the years after the Second World War. L’Année sociologique has become, as of a little over half a century, one sociology journal among others, in a densely packed and competitive field. This morphological transformation of journals devoted to sociology, whether generalist or specialized, is a mark of the success of the discipline’s institutionalization, but it has taken place at the expense of the uniqueness of the journal founded by Durkheim. This uniqueness was also manifested in a specificity in its production, the part devoted to bibliographic analyses. Would Durkheim have approved of the disappearance of this element of critical bibliography from the journal? It belonged to Durkheim’s project to build the study of sociology using materials from other social sciences. More than a century later, this approach no longer seems necessary, given the development that the discipline has undergone. The profusion of sociological publications also makes it difficult to aspire to cover every subject of contemporary research, and Durkheim would therefore undoubtedly have pursued this fundamental reform of this journal.

39His next observation would be that the journal had, several decades ago, departed from its strict basis in Durkheimian thought, for reasons once again rooted in the morphological and intellectual transformations of the discipline. The Durkheimian school, which had been dominant until the 1930s, did not maintain its influence through the Second World War and the pluralist renewal of French sociology after 1945. Nonetheless, L’Année sociologique retains the mark of Durkheim. Durkheim and Mauss are thus the two authors most cited by contemporary sociologists who refer to the journal. Over the last few decades, the journal has also become the authority, not on Durkheimism, but on the history of Durkheimism, with the publication of issues and articles on this subject, but also of original texts related to this Durkheimian sociology. The space that the journal allocates to the sociology of law also recalls its origins, as does the space allocated to economics or morality. Furthermore, the diversity of the journal’s themes constitutes another Durkheimian continuity, as his aim was to cover all the domains of sociology.

40Finally, over the period studied, the institutional and intellectual trajectory of the journal set it along the path of a specific sociologist, Raymond Boudon, via this French sociological pluralism already described. This was done without making it the journal of a specific school. Would Durkheim, with his holistic approach, have felt betrayed when seeing his journal subjected to the influence of the theorist of methodological individualism? Such an opposition as this, too simplistic and artificial, does not take account of a continuity between the Durkheimian project and Boudon’s ambition for the journal. Durkheim aspired to make sociology emerge from “the era of generalities” by giving it a solid academic and positivist basis, far from the many, varied ideological temptations. This was at the heart of the Durkheimian project. From this perspective, the Boudonian conception of sociology and, therefore, the influence that it had on L’Année sociologique, was a continuation of the “scientific ideal of the founders” (Boudon 2010, 4). The journal is no longer Durkheimian, and did not become Boudonian in the strict sense, given the diversity of its objects of study, its approaches, and its contributors over the last few decades. However, influenced by both thinkers, L’Année sociologique continues to advocate scientific rigor in the study of sociology.


  • [1]
    At the global level, sociology, which for a long time was limited to Europe and North America, has spread internationally over the last half century, but has nonetheless remained dominated by a hegemony that has only recently been contested (Mosbah-Natanson and Ingras 2014).
  • [2]
    Our approach is largely inspired by the work carried out on the Québécois journal Recherches sociographiques (Warren and Gingras 2011).
  • [3]
    Translator’s note: Unless otherwise stated, all translations of cited foreign language material in this article are our own.
  • [4]
    However, this approach does not allow an exhaustive analysis of the content of published articles. This is one of the limitations of our study, which we have tried to mitigate in part by means of the extended citational analysis at the end of the article.
  • [5]
    We would like to thank Yves Gingras and Mahdi Kelfaoui, of the Observatoire des sciences et des technologies (OST) (Observatory of Science and Technology), Centre interuniversitaire de recherche sur la science et la technologie (CIRST-UQAM) (Inter-university Center for Research on Science and Technology), for their help.
  • [6]
    For the analysis of the first series of L’Année sociologique, we refer to the article by Matthieu Béra in the present issue, pp. 21–41.
  • [7]
    Boudon addressed this change to biannual publication in an introductory note to that issue. He explained that: “by moving to biannual publication, our journal aims to keep more up to date with the movement of ideas that circulates in and stimulates several sectors of the social sciences” (Boudon 1995, 7).
  • [8]
    The six sections are as follows: general sociology and political sociology; social morphology; religious sociology; legal and moral sociology; economic sociology; linguistics.
  • [9]
    Owing to this decline, we did not investigate this section any more closely than this. Therefore, from this point we only consider contributors to the journal who authored articles, and not those who contributed to the bibliographic critiques, even if they did so frequently. For example, the sociologist Julien Freund, who was very active in the bibliographic critiques but did not publish a single article in the journal between 1964 and 2013, does not feature in our analysis.
  • [10]
    This sub-section disappeared in the 1980s, undoubtedly because of the decline of the Société française de sociologie, which was replaced in 2002 by the Association française de sociologie (French Sociological Association).
  • [11]
    We are making no distinction here between the “original essays,” “studies,” and other types of articles. However, we have not counted obituaries, nor the introductions and presentations of thematic issues.
  • [12]
    The “work” published by Raymond Boudon and André Davidovtich in the issue of 1964 entitled “Les mécanismes sociaux d’abandon des poursuites: Analyse expérimentale par simulation” (“The Mechanisms of Abandoning Legal Proceedings: Experimental Analysis by Simulation”) covers 134 pages; the “work” published by Pierre Bourdieu in 1971, “Le marché des biens symboliques” (“The Market in Symbolic Goods”), 77 pages.
  • [13]
    By comparison, the Revue française de sociologie, a quarterly journal, published an average of 6.5 articles per issue between 1995 and 2012, and Actes de recherches en sciences sociales, an average of 7.4 articles over the period 2005–2014.
  • [14]
    He is followed by Michel Forsé with 7 articles, then Bernard Valade, François Terré, and François Chazel, each with 6 articles.
  • [15]
    At the start of the 2000s, there were 1.2 authors per article and 20% of articles were written in collaboration, in the four following journals: Cahiers internationaux de sociologie, Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, Revue française de sociologie, and Sociologie du travail.
  • [16]
    In our analysis, we have not recorded membership of research groups, but the relevant higher institutional level, such as the CNRS, EHESS, and a university.
  • [17]
    We include in this category all the universities of Île-de-France, including new universities such as Versailles-Saint-Quentin or Marne-la-Vallée.
  • [18]
    We include the École pratique des hautes études (EPHE) (Practical School of Advanced Studies) in this category.
  • [19]
    The proportion of articles with at least one article affiliated to a provincial university goes from 18.3% over the period 1964 to 1994, to 21.4% over the period 1995 to 2013.
  • [20]
    We can also note that the first two foreign members of the editorial board were a Canadian, Simon Langlois, and a Swiss man, Jean Kellerhals, who joined the board in the 1990s. They would be followed by an Italian, Massimo Borlandi, at the start of the 2000s, then a Greek, Chrysostomos Mantzavinos, who joined the board in 2012.
  • [21]
    Until the end of the 1980s, two thirds of the foreign authors came from these three countries. They made up only a third of the foreign contributors between 2004 and 2013.
  • [22]
    The first article in English was published in 1995.
  • [23]
    We can finally note that international collaboration is almost nonexistent. Out of the 63 articles written in collaboration, only 5 were international collaborations. Consequently, less than 1% of articles published in L’Année sociologique were the result of collaboration between authors from different countries (these few involved authors from France and another country).
  • [24]
    See below for a detailed study of the editorial board.
  • [25]
    On this question of the post-War period, see the article by Patricia Vannier in this issue, pp. 181–207.
  • [26]
    On the phenomenon of the proliferation of new journals, and its consequences, see Loïc Blondiaux et al. (2012, 239 ff.). Beyond the French context, see Lowell Hargens (1991).
  • [27]
    By way of comparison with a more contemporary journal, see Yann Potin (2015).
  • [28]
    We note that these three patrons were also associated with three sociology journals that were in competition with L’Année sociologique, namely the Cahiers internationaux de sociologie, the Archives européennes de sociologie, and the Revue française de sociologie.
  • [29]
    Namely, political science, with the very brief participation of Philippe Béneton in the ‘readers’ group “book review committee” plutôt at the start of the 1980s, anthropology, with the participation of Claude Rivière on the board in the 1980s–1990s, and finally philosophy (but philosophy of the social sciences), with the Greek Chrysostomos Mantzavinos, who joined the editorial board in 2012.
  • [30]
    Of course, L’Année sociologique is not the only generalist journal among sociology journals. New generalist journals appeared after 1945: the Revue française de sociologie, the Cahiers internationaux de sociologie, or later, Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales. We could also mention the journal Sociologie, created in 2010.
  • [31]
    Although we were initially inclined to follow the broad Durkheimian historical categories of L’Année sociologique, we finally chose a more inductive approach in determining our categories.
  • [32]
    Between 1975 and 1993, about half the thematic issues related to a sub-discipline or a whole domain of sociology. In the later decades, this proportion decreased.
  • [33]
    The subtitle of this issue, “1965–1985,” clearly indicates the intention to create a synthesis of sociological works on the family over the two decades in question.
  • [34]
    The two thematic issues devoted to science are, accordingly, clearly distinguished from each other by their respective titles. The first, edited by Bernard-Pierre Lécuyer in 1986, was rather plainly entitled “Sociologie des sciences et des techniques.” The second, edited by Michel Dubois in 2013, summarized its subject matter with the following title: “La Science, une activité sociale comme une autre? Controverses autour de l’autonomie scientifique” (“Science, a Social Activity Like any Other? Controversies on Forms of Scientific Autonomy”).
  • [35]
    This could also be applied to other issues that stood out by their originality in the contemporary sociological landscape.
  • [36]
    These are the issues concerned: “Durkheim et les durkheimiens: Religion, connaissance et droit” (“Durkheim and Durkheimians: Religion, Knowledge, and Law”) (vol. 28 [1977]); “Le centenaire de L’Année sociologique” (“The Centenary of L’Année sociologique”) (vol. 48, no. 1 [1998]); “Études d’histoire de la pensée sociologique” (“Studies of the History of Sociological Thought”) (vol. 48, no. 2 [1998]); “Lire Durkheim aujourd’hui” (“Reading Durkheim Today”) (vol. 49, no. 1 [1999]); “Mauss et les durkheimiens” (“Mauss and the Durkheimians”) (vol. 54, no. 2 [2012]).
  • [37]
    We should note that in 1999, the Revue d’histoire des sciences humaines was created, and devoted many articles and issues to the history of sociology.
  • [38]
    This is demonstrated, from as early as the 1960s, by the large number of obituaries that the journal published.
  • [39]
    These are the issues concerned: “Sociologie du droit et de la justice” (“The Sociology of Law and Justice”) (vol. 27 [1976]); “Sociologie du droit economique” (“The Sociology of Economic Law”) (vol. 49, no. 2 [1999]); “Le droit au féminin aujourd’hui” (“Women and Law”) (vol. 53, no. 1 [2003]); “Autour du droit: la sociologie de Jean Carbonnier” (“Around Law: The Sociology of Jean Carbonnier”) (vol. 57, no. 2 [2007]); “Pour une sociologie politique du droit I” (“For A Political Sociology of Law I”) (vol. 59, no. 1 [2009]), and “II” (vol. 59, no. 2 [2009]).
  • [40]
    On André Davidovitch, see Jean-Christophe Marcel and Laurent Mucchielli (2006).
  • [41]
    For an analysis of the international reputation of French journals in the social sciences, see Yves Gingras and Sébastien Mosbah-Natanson (2010).
  • [42]
    A rapid test confirms this artificial dimension. Over the period 1999–2013, 406 journals were listed as citing at least one article in L’Année sociologique, compared with only 222 for the period 1964–1988. We are therefore witnessing a dilution of the citations, since, for the period 1964–1988, there is an average of 3 citations from each review citing L’Année sociologique, whereas this average falls to 2.3 for the period 1999–2013 (for a discussion of this phenomenon on a global scale, see Larivière, Gingras, and Archambault [2009]).
  • [43]
    The Revue française de sociologie contains a quarter of the citations from French articles that cite L’Année sociologique. It is followed by Sociologie du travail (8%), the Cahiers internationaux de sociologie and Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales (a little less than 4%).
  • [44]
    Only two monolingual Anglophone journals feature in the top ten: Current Sociology and the Pacific Sociological Review (this case is explained by an article devoted to L’Année sociologique, published forty years ago: Kando 1976).
  • [45]
    The one exception is the decade 2004–2013, in which Michel Callon received more citations than Durkheim by a small margin, while Mauss occupied the first place. We can even add that, out of the 10 most cited authors in the journal, 5 were classical Durkheimians, namely, in decreasing order of citations: Durkheim, Mauss, Hubert, Hertz, and Simiand.
  • [46]
    Taking as an indicator the first 15 most cited authors, we observe that the Durkheimians represent 75% of the citations in the articles in English and only 42% of the citations in the articles in French.
  • [47]
    We can therefore note that almost 10% of references to Durkheim are found in history journals (whereas a third of the references are from sociology journals).
  • [48]
    We observe, by way of illustration, that the vast majority of citations in a journal such as the American Journal of Sociology refer to Durkheim, Mauss, or another Durkheimian (17 out of the 21 citations).
  • [49]
    Pierre Bourdieu published in 1971 a foundational text in his theoretical journey, especially with regard to his sociology of the cultural and intellectual field, and he did so at a time when the journal was not yet led by Raymond Boudon (it is unlikely that he would have published this text in L’Année sociologique a few years later). Michel Callon published his article in 1986, in the context of a thematic issue entitled “Sociologie des sciences et des techniques” (“The Sociology of sciences and technologies”), a foundational article for the sociology of translation.
  • [50]
    We can compare this ranking with the results that Etienne Ollion and Andrew Abbott (2016) obtained in their study of the American reception of French sociologists in the contemporary period.
  • [51]
    On the concept of a school in sociology, see Monique Hirschhorn (2018).
  • [52]
    Within the scope of this article, we do not intend to take a position on the theoretical trajectory of Boudon (on this point, see Boudon [2010] or Morin [2006]), but rather to base our argument on indicators, mainly quantitative ones, that make it possible to assess the proximity of authors or issues to this trajectory.
  • [53]
    These contributions were often the opening article of the issue in question.
  • [54]
    We normalized the figure for references to Boudon or Bourdieu, that is, the references to these authors are counted only once per article, even if the article cites one of the authors several times.

This article examines the contemporary history of the journal L’Année sociologique. This period has been dominated by the figure of Raymond Boudon since the 1980s. Using a bibliometric method, we studied the changes in the journal between 1964 and 2013. We contend that, on the one hand, over the fifty years studied the journal lost most of its original specificities through a standardization process that took place in a more competitive and saturated sociological publishing context. On the other hand, the journal has oscillated between keeping a generalist identity, more grounded than before in a newly institutionalized sociology, and continuing in its Durkheimian tradition. Finally, although Boudon left his intellectual mark on the journal through specific networks and institutions, the journal has retained a theoretical openness that distinguishes it from other academic journals that represent specific schools of thought.

  • academic journals
  • bibliometrics
  • Raymond Boudon
  • citations analysis
  • history of sociology

Cet article se propose de revenir sur la période contemporaine de la revue, période qui se caractérise par la figure centrale de Raymond Boudon à partir des années 1980. Grâce à une approche bibliométrique, on étudie les transformations de la revue entre 1964 et 2013. La thèse défendue dans cet article est que, d’une part, ces cinquante années ont vu la revue perdre une large partie de ses spécificités originelles au profit d’une standardisation qui s’inscrit dans le contexte d’une densification et d’une concurrence accrue du paysage éditorial sociologique français. D’autre part, la trajectoire scientifique de la revue oscille entre le maintien d’une identité généraliste plus ancrée qu’auparavant dans une sociologie institutionnalisée et des orientations spécifiques qui ne sont pas sans lien avec son origine durkheimienne. Enfin, si la marque intellectuelle de Raymond Boudon a su, à travers des réseaux et des institutions spécifiques, s’imposer sur la revue, celle-ci conserve une ouverture théorique qui la distingue d’autres revues d’écoles.

  • revue scientifique
  • bibliométrie
  • Raymond Boudon
  • analyse de citations
  • histoire de la sociologie

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Sébastien Mosbah-Natanson
Sébastien MOSBAH-NATANSON is lecturer in sociology in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities of Sorbonne Université, and member of the GEMASS (Groupe d’étude des méthodes de l’analyse sociologique de la Sorbonne – Sorbonne Study Group on the Methods of Sociological Analysis). He is a specialist in the history of sociology, and published Une “mode” de la sociologie: Publications et vocations sociologiques en France en 1900 (Paris: Classiques Garnier, 2017) and many articles in this field. He also works on the globalization of the contemporary social sciences.
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