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Encyclopedia > Suicide (book)

Suicide was one of the groundbreaking books in the field of sociology. Written by French sociologist Émile Durkheim and published in 1897 it was a case study of suicide, a publication unique for its time which provided an example of what the sociological monograph should look like. Sociology (from Latin: socius, companion; and the suffix -ology, the study of, from Greek λόγος, lógos, knowledge) is an academic and applied discipline that studies society and human social interaction. ... Sociology is the study of the social lives of humans, groups and societies. ... Emile Durkheim. ... 1897 (MDCCCXCVII) was a common year starting on Friday (see link for calendar). ... Case studies involve a particular method of research. ... For other uses, see Suicide (disambiguation). ...

Most contemporary studies of suicide focused on individual characteristics. Durkheim studied connections between individuals and society. He believed that if he could show how what is seen as the most individual act is actually the result of the social world, he would show the usefulness of sociology and his rules of the sociological method. In this book Durkheim developed the concept of anomie. He explores the differing suicide rates among Protestants and Catholics, explaining that stronger social control among Catholics results in lower suicide rates. According to Durkheim, people have a certain level of attachment to their groups, which he calls social integration. Abnormally high or low levels of social integration may result in increased suicide rates; low levels have this effect because low social integration results in disorganized society, causing people to turn to suicide as a last resort, while high levels cause people to kill themselves to avoid becoming burdens on society. This work has influenced proponents of control theory, and is often mentioned as a classic sociological study. As commonly used, individual refers to a person or to any specific object in a collection. ... Young people interacting within an ethnically diverse society. ... Anomie, in contemporary English, means a condition or malaise in individuals, characterized by an absence or diminution of standards or values. ... Protestantism is a general grouping of denominations within Christianity. ... Social integration is a term used in sociology and several other social sciences. ... Control theory, as an extension to the field of psychoanalysis, postulates human behaviors driven by the therapeutic function of taming the threatening Otherness of one’s surroundings. ...

Durkheim found out that:

  • Suicide rates are higher for those widowed, single and divorced than married.
  • Suicide rates are higher for people without children than with children.
  • Suicide rates are higher among Protestants than Catholics.

Reasons for these differing suicide rates include:

  • Most importantly, the coroner's interpretation of the death in question. Due to slight differences between Protestants and Catholics—specifically because suicide is a mortal sin for Catholics—the coroner in a Catholic country is less likely to record the death as a suicide. Take into account that if no suicide note is left, it is all down to the coroner's interpretation.
  • Catholic countries tend to be slightly more integrated than Protestant, with closer family ties. The province of Québec, in Canada, is a dramatic paradox to this affirmation. While officially Catholic, it has a suicide rate per capita, especially amongst its youth, that is alarming, which is attributed to the rapid downfall of the actual communal practice of religion. Similarly, people who are married and/or have children are less likely to suicide. Simply put, they have more to live for.

According to Durkheim, Catholic society has normal levels of integration while Protestant society has low levels. Durkheim thus defined suicide as the act of severing social relationships and concluded that suicide may be caused by weak social bonds. Durkheim believed that the social bond is composed of two factors, which are social integration (attachment to other individuals within society) and social regulation (attachment to society's norms). He believed that suicide rates may increase when extremities in these factors occur. According to the beliefs of Roman Catholicism, a mortal sin is a sin that, unless confessed and absolved (or at least sacramental confession is willed if not available), condemns a persons soul to Hell after death. ... Social relation can refer to a multitude of social interactions, regulated by social norms, between two or more people, with each having a social position and performing a social role. ...

He differentiated between four types of suicide:

  • Egoistic suicide: Egoism is a state in which the ties attaching the individual to others in the society are weak. Since the individual is only weakly integrated into the society, ending his or her own life will have little impact on the rest of the society. In other words, there are few social ties to keep the individual from taking his or her own life. This Durkheim saw as the cause of suicide among divorced men.
  • Altruistic suicide: Altruism is a state opposite to egoism, in which the individual is extremely attached to the society and thus has no life of his or her own. Individuals who commit suicide based on altruism die because they believe that their death can bring about a benefit to the society. In other words, when an individual is too heavily integrated into the society, he or she will commit suicide regardless of his or her own hesitation if the society's norms ask for the person's death. Durkheim saw this as occurring in two different ways:
    • Where people saw themselves as worthless or a burden upon society and would therefore commit suicide. He saw this as happening in ancient or 'primitive' societies, but also in highly traditionalized army regiments, such as imperial or elite guards, in contemporary society
    • Where people saw the social world as meaningless and would sacrifice themselves for a greater ideal. Durkheim saw this as happening in 'Eastern' religions, such as the Sati in Hinduism. Some contemporary sociologists have used this analysis to explain Kamikaze pilots and the cult of the suicide bomber
  • Anomic suicide: Anomie is a state in which there is weak social regulation between the society's norms and the individual, most often brought on by dramatic changes in economic and/or social circumstances. This type of suicide happens when the social norms and laws governing the society do not correspond with the life goals of the individual. Since the individual does not identify with the norms of the society, suicide seems to be a way to escape them. Durkheim saw this as the explanation for Protestants committing suicide.
  • Fatalistic suicide: Fatalism is a state opposite to anomie in which social regulation is completely instilled in the individual; there is no hope of change against the oppressive discipline of the society. The only way for the individual to be released from this state is to commit suicide. Durkheim saw this as the reason for slaves committing suicide in antiquity, but saw it as having little relevance in modern society

// Ceremony of Burning a Hindu Widow with the Body of her Late Husband, from Pictorial History of China and India, 1851. ... USS Bunker Hill was hit by Ogawa (see picture left) and another kamikaze near Kyūshū on May 11, 1945. ... A suicide bombing is a bomb attack on people or property, committed by a person who knows the explosion will cause his or her own death in addition to the attacks primary purpose (see suicide, suicide weapons). ...


  • Durkheim, Suicide, (1897), The Free Press reprint 1997, ISBN 0-684-83632-7

External links

  • Analysis of the book
  • Le suicide: étude de sociologie Snippet view from Google Book Search

  Results from FactBites:
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  More results at FactBites »



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