Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the usefulness of different sociological approaches to suicide. (21 marks)
According to Item A, suicides are based on coroner’s interpretations and differ across cultures as Danish coroner's base their verdicts on probability rather than English coroners who must find evidence to support their verdict as suicide. Durkheim identifies the difference in suicide rates across cultures and societies. Durkheim defines suicide as “all cases of death resulting directly or indirectly from positive or negative act of the victim himself”. He used suicide to demonstrate that positivistic and scientific methods of researching social topics was possible whereas interpretivists argue that to understand the meanings of society and the causes of suicide, we must use qualitative methods such as unstructured interviews. Durkheim used official statistics as a reliable and representative way to study social facts, such as integration and regulation. Douglas criticised Durkheim for using statistics as they do not represent a true and valid picture of the individuals’ meanings, such as why they committed suicide, instead of the coroner’s labels and interpretations of their deaths. Atkinson disagrees that it is possible to discover the real rate of suicide. Taylor’s realist approach suggests that we must uncover the underlying meaning that cause suicide and categorises them into self or other-directed.
Durkheim’s (1897) argument is extremely outdated, being almost 120 years old. This means that some of his views aren’t applicable to today’s society - his ideas were based on pre-industrial societies where people often lived in extended or nuclear families, whereas today’s society is based on modern industrial society where not many people continue to live in nuclear families anymore. He argues that our behaviour is caused by social facts such as social integration and moral regulation and that the suicide rate is also a social fact....
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