Robert Hertz (22 June 1881, Saint-Cloud, Hauts-de-Seine – 13 April 1915, Marchéville, Meuse) was a French sociologist who was killed in World War I.
Hertz was a student at the
École Normale Supérieure, from which he aggregated in philosophy in 1904, finishing first in his class. After a brief period of study in England at the British Museum he returned to France, where he began doctoral work with Émile Durkheim and Marcel Mauss. His speciality was the sociology of religion. An important member of the Annee Sociologique team, he is known for his early paper A contribution to the study of the collective representation of death (translated into English in Death and the Right Hand by Rodney Needham in 1960) which influenced Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard and which many consider to be a precursor to Claude Lévi-Strauss's structuralism. His uncompleted doctoral dissertation was entitled Sin and Expiation in Primitive Societies. Sections of it, along with his articles for the L'Année and his correspondence with his wife, have been published. A quote from his writing Death and the Right Hand often appears in anthropological articles even today, such as Richard Robbins's The Cultural Construction of Social Hierarchy written in 1997. It's as follows:
Every social hierarchy claims to be founded on the nature of things. It thus accords itself eternity; it escapes change and the attacks of innovators. Aristotle justified slavery by the ethnic superiority of the Greeks over the barbarians; and today the man who is annoyed by feminist claims alleges that woman is