Emile Durkheim on Suicide
  Review:  Durkheim  
  Introduction:  Durkheim is known for establishing the 1st Sociology Dept.
This was at the University of Paris
Durkheim is known for establishing Sociology as a Social Science
He did this through applying the Scientific Method to Social Facts in his study of Suicide
  Suicide was written by Durkheim in 1897  
  Durkheim chose his Topic:  
  Durkheim conducted the research on suicide in order to establish Sociology as a social science on par w/ psychology  
  For Durkheim, suicide is perhaps "the most personal act" any human can undertake  
  Durkheim believed that if he could show that the most individual of acts, which had previously been attributed to psychological causes, had social causes, then he would validate the power & worth of Sociology  
  In writing Suicide, Durkheim Reviewed the Literature, examined appropriate Theory, & employed common sense:  
  Durkheim believed a society had to accomplish two major functions to be successful  
  a. Integration is the degree to which collective sentiments (knowledge, beliefs, values) are shared by members is society  
  The opposite of Social Integration     is Isolation in a society  
  b. Regulation is the degree of external constraint on people, i.e. the common norms people live under
    Regulation                vs      Lack of Regulation in a society
  The widespread failure of Integration or Regulation in society yields societal collapse
The occasional failure of Integration or Regulation in society yields an increased rate of suicide
  What are some common causes of suicide?
Why do some people commit suicide & others don't?
What are some possible explanations?


  Depression                   Terminal illness
Spouse leaves them      Picked on by peers
Lost job                        Loneliness
  Durkheim then uses the deductive method to develop his Thesis & Hypotheses:  
  Durkheim's Hypothesis is that Suicide would be highest among single, Protestant, men because these groups are less integrated & less regulated  
  Other groups w/ a tendency toward suicide are those who are highly integrated or over-regulated  
  Durkheim's Method was to travel from parish (country) to parish & examine death certificates of suicides & record demographic info, & the circumstances surrounding the death  
  Durkheim rode from Parish (county) to Parish in France in the 1890s  
  Durkheim collected data on social background of suicide victims, e.g. demographic information including age, religion, class, job, work history, income, wealth, gender, etc.  
  Then Durkheim grouped people according to suicide rates & each social factor; & he did this by hand ( a computer would do this today )  
Table on Durkheim's Four Types of suicide  
  1. Altruistic Suicide is correlated w/ High Integration into society  
  When social integration is too strong, the individual is literally forced into committing suicide   
  Hero suicide occurs when a parent dies while pushing their child out of the way of a car  
  With Altruistic Suicide, death is deliverance  
  Altruistic suicide springs from hope, for it depends on the belief in the beautiful afterlife: death is a deliverance  
  Non-extreme examples  
  - soldier jumping on grenade or charging hill  
  - policeman dying in line of duty  
  - parent pushing child from path of car  
  Extreme Examples:   
  - Kamikazes  
  - Muslim bombers  
  - 1996:  men emolating (burning) themselves to protest:      Miss World pageant in India.   
  - The followers of Reverend Jim Jones at the People's Temple in Jonestown, Guyana. 
  - The followers of David Koresh & his followers of the Branch Dividians in Texas.
  2. Fatalistic Suicide: High Regulation by society  
  Persons w/ pitilessly blocked opportunities & passions,  violently choked by oppressive discipline  
  Fatalistic suicide was little mentioned by Durkheim  
  - slaves  
  - prisoners  
  - overworked college students  
  - American middle class working men  
  - American middle class house wives  
  School Age suicides/killers:  I cannot stand the harassment by the in-crowd, because I am different  
  - over-worked Japanese employees  
  - over-worked American executives  
  3. Egoistic suicideLow Integration into society  
  Individual experiences a sense of meaninglessness  
  Found in societies where individuals are not well integrated into the society  
  Personal feeling/emotion:  Sense of meaninglessness, depression  
  Stems from the social currents of incurable weariness  & sad depression  
  Society is where we "learn" [ socialize or imprint ] our norms & morals  
  These are internalized into the self  
  Therefore, w/ egoistic suicide, a person may also appear as out of control  
  They lack of internal control of self  
  If people are left to pursue their private interests in whatever way they wish, they are likely to feel considerable personal dissatisfaction  
  Why?  Because all needs cannot be fulfilled  
  Self as constructed by society is seen as nearly insatiable  
  Needs that are satiable simply lead to the generation of more and more needs.  
  - Unmarried individuals have higher rates of suicide than married people  
  - Lone Wolf Suicide:  You have nothing:  The Stranger  
  - School Age killer/suicides:  I have no friends; I am left out of everything  
  These troubled young men have the following qualities in common  
  Generally isolated... not popular at all
Harassed or teased by others
Unregulated in that they could get access & time to gain weaponry
  - Millionaire suicide:  People only like me for my money:  Richie Rich:  the poor little rich kid  
  - Star Egoistic Suicide:  Many stars die of egoistic suicide  
  Marilyn Monroe  
  Janis Joplin  of Big Brother & the Holding Co.      d. 1970
  Jim Morrison of the Doors.  
  Kurt Cobain of Nirvanna in b. 1967   d. 1994
  Religion insulates against suicide:  integrates people into society  
  Religion limits wants  
  4. Anomic suicideLow Regulation by society  
  Anomie:  experience where Culture ( common knowledge, beliefs, values, norms ) does not exist &/or has become ineffective
( for Durkheim, Culture may be thought of as the collective unconscious )
  In comparing Anomie to Alienation, Alienation is the separation or isolation from existing culture whereas Anomie is the condition where there is no culture, i.e., no culture to be separated from
            See:  Anomie
            See:  Alienation
           See:  Culture  
  Societal disintegration leads to currents of depression & disillusionment.  
  The moral disintegration of society predisposes the individual to commit suicide, but the currents of depression must be there to produce differences in rates of anomic suicide.  
  But even though social forces may be weak, an individual is never totally free of the collectivity  
  Disruptions in  regulative powers of society leaves people dissatisfied because they have little control over their passions  
  So people are allowed to run wild in an insatiable race for gratification  
  Success can significantly reduce the Regulation that one experiences:  The newly rich may quit their job, move to a new community, perhaps find a new spouse  
  These changes disrupt regulatory effect of old structures & the person may not yet feel  new regulatory effects  
  Examples of anomic suicide
  - I am so weak, I have nothing left to lose  
  - Suicide from great loss (lay-off)  
  - Bum:  I can do whatever I want  because no one can hurt me
  "Freedom is just another word  for nothing left to lose"  Janis Joplin
  - I am so powerful, I cannot lose
  - College students away from home, family, friends, becomes wild party animal, & dies of overdose, car wreck, etc.  
  - Person moving to big city for first time  
  - Millionaire:  I can do whatever I want  because I am so powerful: No one can tell me what to do
  - Suicide from great gain (finally “making it big” career wise)
  - Superstars, and anyone who die "accidentally" in that they were not depressed, despondent, etc.  
  - They live the wild life, feel free, & feel little societal control or fear  
  - Jimi Hendrix
  - James Dean
  - John Belusi?  
  - Social or natural crises reduce regulation & people feel they have nothing left to lose, no reason to live
  Periods of disruption unleash currents of anomie,   moods of restlessness & normlessness
  Rates of anomic suicide may rise w/ almost any social crises such as a storm, a war, an economic boom, an economic depression, etc.
  Individuals experience the sensation  ( usually felt as fear or anxiety )  that society is breaking down
  Old rules no longer apply  
  Either econ boom or econ depression  makes society incapable of exercising its authority over individuals.  
  The old norms no longer apply, but new norms are not yet in place  
  Losing a job can cut the individual off from the Regulation that the company, the job, the workplace friendships may have had  
  Being cut off from the economic sector, or family, religion,  state, etc. leaves the person rootless  
  Findings:  What is the profile of a suicidal person?  
  Men commit suicide more than women
( Women make more attempts at suicide, but men succeed more often )
  The young, mid teens to mid twenties & the middle aged, late 40s & 50s are the most suicidal age groups
  Protestants more than Catholics or Jews to commit suicide
  People of all Classes have about the same rates of suicide, except for the extreme rich & poor
  Those who have been recently Laid-Off more likely to commit suicide
  If you are male, middle-age, Protestant, laid-off, Watch-out!
  Durkheim's findings are still valid today & yet most of the focus is on psychological causes
  Durkheim's study has been confirmed by many other researchers & its generalization is very widespread

Table on Durkheim's Four Types of Suicide
1. Altruistic suicide
3. Egoistic suicide
2. Fatalistic suicide
4. Anomic suicide

The End