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Durkheims intention was going to explain the apparently person act of

suicide with regards to societys influences. His procedure was based upon a

distinction between specific cases of suicide and societys, or perhaps social

groups, suicide rates. According to Durkheim, the stability and

regularity in suicide rates was an irreducible social reality which could

only be understood sociologically. Social truth is collective trends

which restrain individual tendencies. For Durkheim, societies keep back

individuals in two ways. First, by binding them to the other person to a greater

extent through shared regular membership of sociable institutions (integration).

Second, by giving specific goals and means for attaing all of them


Durkheim developed several types of suicide by his conceiving of sociable

and meaningful order. Egoistic suicide may be the weakening from the ties binding the

individual to society, producing an excess of individualism. Which

times of crisis, can keep the individual separated, feeling an absence of

support and even more vulnerable to depressive disorder and eventually suicide.

Charitable suicide, which is the opposite of egoistic suicide, the

people ego, instead of being to great, is to weak to resist the

demands of social custom made to devote suicide. Anomie suicide is a result of a

people activity short of regulation. Durkheim distinguished between

acute and chronic anomie. Acute anomie may be the result of some immediate

crisis, including an economic problems. Chronic anomie is the reaction to a more

steady development of modern societies exactly where individuals are significantly

placed into conditions of competition with each other.

Durkheim used similarities between committing suicide rates and various costs of

exterior association to exhibit the existence of his key causal concepts. Intended for

example, the information showed that Catholic areas had constantly lower

suicide rates than Protestant areas, people who had been married with children

had been less inclined to committing suicide than the single or childless, and a societys

committing suicide rate fell in times of conflict or politics upheaval. Durkheim was not

quarrelling that the differences in religion, friends and family life or perhaps political activity

were elements influencing committing suicide. Rather having been saying that the

relationship between suicide and religious, home and personal life

were the hidden underlying reasons for suicide.

Durkheim used commonalities between increased suicide prices and times

of monetary fluctuation to illustrate the existence of anomic committing suicide. In

times of rapid economic change progressively more people locate

themselves in altered scenarios where the norms and beliefs by which they

had recently lived their particular lives becomes less relevant and the ensuing

state of ethical deregulation, or anomie, leaves them weaker to

suicide. So , Durkheim was able to argue from his research that, even though

committing suicide appears to be a purely person phenomenon, the underlying triggers

are essentially social. As Raymond Aron (1968), outlining Durkheims

accomplishment, put it, You will discover, therefore , certain social phenomena which

control individual phenomena. The most outstanding, most eloquent example is usually

that of the social forces which travel individuals to all their deaths, every one

trusting they are obeying only themselves (p. 34).

Although Durkheims work had a significant impact on foreseeable future

sociological research of committing suicide and the development of sociology generally

it is important to make note of the limitations of the influence plus the

many criticisms that have been made of Suicide (see, e. g. Lester, 1992). In

the sociology of suicide, such as most areas within the wellness field, a diverse

distinction may be made among positivist research of sociable causation and

neo-phenomenological studies of cultural construction. Strangely enough, neither

point of view accepts Durkheims approach. Positivist researchers, although

generally approving of Durkheims attempt to associate suicide prices with

social variables, have quite legally claimed that Durkheims key

concepts of social the use and legislation were defined too usually to

enable proper scientific testing. Consequently , in imperialistic terms, the

theory has not been scientific because it could never be refuted by the


Phenomenologists, asking the very concept of trying to describe

suicide sociologically, have honed in on Durkheims uncritical acceptance

of official committing suicide rates. Analysis by Douglas (1967) and Atkinson (1978)

into the sociable construction of suicide statistics has shown just how certain

types of death (for model hangings and drownings) and certain data

from the deceaseds past (for example, depressive disorder, social concerns

isolation) behave as suicidal tips which, considered together, permit officials

to create a taking once life biography which usually would in that case legitimize a suicide

verdict. Atkinson, for instance , shows that a death will simply be noted as

a suicide when ever officials can discover facts consistent with

basic cultural assumptions in Western societies about why people kill

themselves and how each goes about doing this. He goes on to argue that

Durkheim and others who also use established suicide prices and find all of them

consistently linked to factors just like social solitude and status change

may not in fact end up being discovering the social causes of suicide. Disregarding

Durkheims goal of trying to explain the social basis of suicide

medically, phenomenologists argue that the most sociology can offer is definitely

interpretations showing how suicidal meanings are constructed in given


So what can a book written a century back widely belittled and structured

on suspect 19th 100 years statistics tell us about suicide in modern day

societies? A single answer might be that Durkheims brilliant theory can still

give a basis to get theorizing not only about suicide, yet also regarding

depression and mental well being generally (Brown, Harris, 1978). Another

answer might be that empirically Durkheim was to some degree right about

the causes of suicide and that his theoretical principles of incorporation and

anomie can help to understand a range of self-harming behaviours from

committing suicide to self-mutilation and eating disorders.

Given the criticisms of Suicide by others as well as apparent

disadvantages in terms of Durkheims own aspirations, are many commentators

appropriate when they grant the work an honored nevertheless essentially historical

classic position? Have we really progressed over and above Durkheim? I actually am unsure

we have.

And so in terms of the relation involving the individual and society we have

either biologically orientated hypotheses which reflect the person very little

more than a sociable organism driven to committing suicide by internal factors, these kinds of

as low numbers of serotonin metabolic 5-hydroxindoleacetic chemical p in the

cerebrospinal fluid, or sociological answers where a completely social

person is somehow pushed to suicide by various exterior factors

in much the same method as one billiard ball is pushed towards a pocket by simply


Whether we are learning suicide, additional aspects of fatality or

everything else, we are without doubt confronted by a series of tensions arising

from looking to make sense of the actions of biological creatures which are

partially influenced by their culture, trying to understand through our

knowledge and through abstract cause, and trying to create sense of the

material universe where actual things happen, like people killing themselves

but which in turn we can simply make sense of through several systems of thought.

Nowhere, in my perspective, are the causing tensions plus the brilliant look at

to resolve them more apparent than in Committing suicide. This is what causes this

brilliant publication a classic, and a classic which can be just as important to

social research today when it was 100 years ago.


ARON, R. (1968). Main currents in sociological thought II. London:

Weidenfeld and Nicolson.

ATKINSON, L. (1978). Learning about suicide. Basingstoke: Macmillan.

DARKISH, G. & HARRIS, Big t. (1978). The social origins of major depression. London:


DOUGLAS, J. (1967). The social connotations of suicide. Princeton, NJ:

Princeton College or university Press.

LESTER, D. (ed. ) (1992). Le suicideone hundred years in suicide.

Phila., PA: Charles Press.

STENGEL, E. (1973). Suicide and attempted suicide. London: Penguin.

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