French sociologist and moralist; b. Elboeuf (Seine-Maritime), Oct. 5, 1865; d. Paris, May 7, 1923. After completing secondary school at Rouen, he made study tours to England in 1884 and San Francisco in 1885 and then studied law at Rouen and at the Institut Catholique of Paris. He argued few cases as an attorney. In 1891 he took charge of the course in Roman law at the Institut Catholique and then became professor of international law in 1902. He also occupied a chair of sociology at the Sorbonne.
As a sociologist, Bureau was a disciple of Frédéric Le Play, adhering at first to the school of La Science sociale, led by Henri de Tourville, from which he later withdrew. He was interested in perfecting its method, treating social facts objectively (comme des choses ) on the condition that their character as psychological facts was respected. To the social factors considered by Tourville (geography, work), Bureau added Weltanschauung, thus avoiding sociological determinism and emphasizing the role of individual initiative in social development. Against Émile durkheim, he refused to attribute to collective consciousness a reality anterior and superior to individual life. He prolonged the influence of Gabriel Tarde and prepared the way for Henri bergson. For Bureau, sociology as a science was both necessary and insufficient. He proposed the necessity of a social art, i.e., the ordering of institutions from the point of view of the reform of morals, in a period in which the reconstruction of morality was sought by rationalism and positivism. Bureau was an exacting moralist, disquieted by the sexual indiscipline and conjugal dissolution he observed. His most important works include La Crise morale des temps nouveaux (Paris 1907), L'Indiscipline des moeurs (Paris 1920), and Introduction à la méthode sociologique (Paris 1923).
Bibliography: g. de lanzac de laborie et al., Paul Bureau (Paris 1924).