Society is a reality sui generis; it has its own characteristics that are either not found in the rest of the universe or are not found there in the same form. The representations that express society therefore have an altogether different content from the purely individual representations, and one can be certain in advance that the former addsomething to the latter.

The manner in which both kinds of representations are formed brings about their differentiation. Collective representationsare the product of animmense cooperation that extends not only through space but also through time; to make them, a multitude of different minds have associated, intermixed, and combined their ideas and feelings; long generationshav accumulated their experience and knowledge. A very special intellectuality that is infinitely richer and more complex than that of the individual is distilled in them. That being the case, we understand how reason has gained thepower to go beyond the range of empirical cognition. It owes this power not to some mysterious virtue but simply to the fact that, as the well-known formula has it, man is double. In him ar two beings: an individual being that has its basis in the body and whose sphere of action is strictly limited by that fact, and a social being that represents within us the highest reality in the intellectual and moral realm that is knowable through observation: I mean society.

Durkheim, mile. 1912 [1995]. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. New York: The Free Press, p.15-16.