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Emile Durkheim and his Theories of Suicide.

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Neferet -House of Night-

Neferet -House of Night-'s avatar

PostPosted: Fri Jun 12, 2009 11:56 am
Emile Durkheim was a French Sociologist living the 1800's to the 1900's. He had a theory connecting religion to suicide. smilies/icon_biggrin.gif

Durkheim believed that depending on how connected you are with your community, the less likely you would commit suicide. The less connected you are connected with your community the more likely you were going to commit suicide. Now in this time, the major religious groups in Europe were the Catholics, the Protestants and the Jews. According to Durkheim, Catholics were less likely to commit suicide compared to Protestants because Catholics were so closely knit together. While Protestants weren't. According to the graph I found, in some European countries, Jews were less likely to commit suicide compared to Catholics and Protestants because they were more closely knit.

http://manyeyes.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/visualizations/suicide-rates-and-religion-in-europe


There are other reasons of why people commit suicide besides religion as shown below.

Quote:
Collective tendencies have an existence of their own; they are forces as real as cosmic forces, though of another sort; they, likewise, affect the individual from without..." (Thompson, 1982, p. 109 [excerpt from Suicide])

Suicide, Durkheim's third major work, is of great importance because it is his first serious effort to establish an empericism in sociology, an empiricism that would provide a sociological explanation for a phenomenon traditionally regarded as exclusively psychological and individualistic.

Durkheim proposed this definition of suicide: "the term suicide is applied to all cases of death resulting directly or indirectly from a positive or negative act of the victim himself, which he knows wil produce this result" (1982, p. 110 [excerpt from Suicide]). Durkheim used this definition to separate true suicides from accidental deaths. He then collected several European nations' suicide rate statistics, which proved to be relatively constant among those nations and among smaller demographics within those nations. Thus, a collective tendency towards suicide was discovered.

Of equal importance to his methodology, Durkheim drew theoretical conclusions on the social causes of suicide. He proposed four types of suicide, based on the degrees of imbalance of two social forces: social integration and moral regulation.

Egoisitic suicide resulted from too little social integration. Those individuals who were not sufficiently bound to social groups (and therefore well-defined values, traditions, norms, and goals) were left with little social support or guidance, and therefore tended to commit suicide on an increased basis. An example Durkheim discovered was that of unmarried people, particularly males, who, with less to bind and connect them to stable social norms and goals, committed suicide at higher rates than unmarried people.

The second type, Altruistic suicide, was a result of too much integration. It occurred at the opposite end of the integration scale as egoistic suicide. Self sacrifice was the defining trait, where individuals were so integrated into social groups that they lost sight of their individuality and became willing to sacrifice themselves to the group's interests, even if that sacrifice was their own life. The most common cases of altruistic suicide occurred among members of the military.

On the second scale, that of moral regulation, lies the other two forms of suicide, the first of which is Anomic suicide, located on the low end. Anomic suicide was of particular interest to Durkheim, for he divided it into four categories: acute and chronic economic anomie, and acute and chronic domestic anomie. Each involved an imbalance of means and needs, where means were unable to fulfill needs.

Each category of anomic suicide can be described briefly as follows:

* Acute economic anomie: sporadic decreases in the ability of traditional institutions (such as religion, guilds, pre-industrial social systems, etc.) to regulate and fulfill social needs.
* Chronic economic anomie: long term dimunition of social regulation. Durkheim identified this type with the ongoing industrial revolution, which eroded traditional social regulators and often failed to replace them. Industrial goals of wealth and property were insufficient in providing happiness, as was demonstrated by higher suicide rates among the wealthy than among the poor.
* Acute domestic anomie: sudden changes on the microsocial level resulted in an inability to adapt and therefore higher suicide rates. Widowhood is a prime example of this type of anomie.
* Chronic domestic anomie: referred to the way marriage as an institution regulated the sexual and behavioral means-needs balance among men and women. Marriage provided different regulations for each, however. Bachelors tended to commit suicide at higher rates than married men because of a lack of regulation and established goals and expectations. On the other hand, marriage has traditionally served to overregulate the lives of women by further restricting their already limited opportunities and goals. Unmarried women, therefore, do not experience chronic domestic anomie nearly as often as do unmarried men.


The final type of suicide is Fatalistic suicide, "at the high extreme of the regulation continuum" (1982, p. 113). This type Durkheim only briefly describes, seeing it as a rare phenomena in the real world. Examples include those with overregulated, unrewarding lives such as slaves, childless married women, and young husbands. Durkheim never specifies why this type is generally unimportant in his study.

Durkheim felt that his empirical study of suicide had discovered the structural forces that caused anomie and egoism, and these forces were natural results of the decline of mechanical solidarity and the slow rise of organic solidarity due to the division of labor and industrialism. Also of importance was Durkheim's discovery that these forces affected all social classes.

This is where the true sociological value of Suicide emerges. Because social forces that affect human behavior are the result of previous human actions, it is the role of sociology to expose and understand these actions as the foundations of societal structure. These structural phenomena are at the root of human society, and through scientific, statistical methods -- integrated with informed theory and educated conjecture -- the function of these structures can be comprehended. In other words, Suicide is a vital work because it is the first effective combination of sociological theory and empiricism to explain a social phenomenon.
 
PostPosted: Sat Jun 13, 2009 10:36 am
The study and graph don't really lead to any conclusion about a connection between religion and suicide.

For one thing, the graph doesn't say how many members of each religion were in each country. So if twice as many Protestants committed suicide as did Jews, well that might just be because there are ten times as many Protestants. That doesn't mean Protestants are more likely to kill themselves, that just means there was more of them in that country to begin with. The graph leaves out the size proportions between the religions.

Also, if he was trying to draw universal conclusions about the connection between religion and suicide, why did he leave the United States out? Why didn't he include major European countries, like France and England? They're all left out while tiny countries like Baden and Bavaria are used instead. Aren't the major and most developed countries important to include in the study?

One thing that skews his results ridiculously is that anyone who dies fighting in a war, he counts as an act of suicide. So if a lot more Protestants and Catholics fought in wars than Jews did, of course more of them died. Why would anyone count war casualties with suicide rates?

The wikipedia article on Émile Durkheim also explains that there are several problems and fallacies with his study on suicide, with a couple of citations.

It would be an interesting study but I think the poor methods here undermine any conclusions that could be made. Leaving out all the major countries, and counting soldiers killed in war as suicides, are not methods that produce good conclusions for this.  

Crimson Raccoon

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Neferet -House of Night-

Neferet -House of Night-'s avatar

PostPosted: Mon Jun 15, 2009 4:49 am
It was a graph I found and probably not the actual one that had his actual research on. But it illustrates a point. That being, the closer you are to your community the less likely you will commit suicide. Which still can be said for the suicide rates today.


Course it doesn't account for ritualistic suicide...>.> but that deals with honor more.  
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