Why People Commit Suicide? Discuss in Relation to Durkheim’s Work.

Topics: Sociology, Suicide, Émile Durkheim Pages: 6 (2034 words) Published: May 12, 2013
Title: Why people commit suicide? Discuss in relation to Durkheim’s work.

Suicide is conscious termination of life. It is death that occurs after intentionally injuring yourself. 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 will produce this result (Durkheim, 1970:44). The famous French sociologist Emile Durkheim (1858 - 1917) provided a sociological explanation of that what usually is considered most individual of acts - suicide. We live now in a period of socio - economic change, value change and a more rapid scientific and technical progress. Many people have difficulty in adapting to the high requirements of today. However, suicide is not just a modern society "disease." It has existed for centuries, but the passing of time had changed societies attitudes to suicide. However, suicide has always been and remains a shocking, controversial phenomenon and raises a lot of discussions. I would argue that causes of suicide are social, rather than individual.

It has long been observed that the social relationship has influence on suicide. Comparative statistics for countries and categories of people within each country showed that suicide rates were relatively constant; therefore it must be a social fact that a collective tendency towards suicide existed (Thompson, 1989:110). Durkheim examined suicide statistics and found that no matter how diverse and unique the motives of suicide would be, the suicide general trend of the numbers of growth and decline is repeated in each country and changing because of social factors. He considered suicide rates as a social fact and social disintegration as a major reason of the suicide. It was an effect of imbalance of social structural forces. As Thompson wrote, that “it was suicide rates, as disclosed by statistics, that constituted the social fact to be explained as an effect of an imbalance of social structural forces” (Thompson, 1989:109). Durkheim aimed to study suicide as a social not psychological or biological phenomenon. He stated that suicide cannot be explained only by individual reasons, but it is necessary to take into account the conditions of society and human relationships, because they are primarily influential to the prevalence of suicide. The sociologist suggests that suicide becomes acceptable to a person who is weakly integrated into the group. However, it is also an acceptable solution for individuals who are highly integrated in the group, when it supports self-destruction, in other words too much individualism or too much social pressure. Durkheim also stated that collective tendencies could be related to sets of causes and he classified the suicide into a section of four types: egoism, altruism, anomie and fatalism.

The first, weak integration case may result in egoistic suicide. Considering egoistic suicide, Durkheim see that this type is closely related to religion, family, and political communities. Suicide rates were higher for Protestants than Catholics, both in comparisons between predominantly Protestant countries and Catholic countries, and between Protestants and Catholics in the same society (Thompson, 1989:110-111). Suicide has been condemned by both religions. The only substantial difference between Catholicism and Protestantism is that Protestantism admit to the individual's right to weigh up his own beliefs. Catholic religion has priestly and sacramental support. The individual cannot even evaluate his beliefs in terms of history, as the original text, which is based on this belief is inaccessible. The tradition is an unshakable thing. Moreover, in Catholic way of thinking, any change is a real scandal. Protestantism is more creative. So I would conclude that the Protestant tendency to suicide is associated with the spirit of the religion giving the individual the right to reflect on his faith. A further example of egoistic suicide was...
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