Can Granovetter’s ideas on ‘the strength of weak ties’ contribute to an understanding of suicide as theorized by Durkheim?
In answering this question I will look to examine three things. Firstly, I give a brief overview of Granovetter’s idea of ‘the strength of weak ties’. Secondly, I will look at what Durkheim’s understanding of suicide is. Thirdly, and most substantively, I will try to see if there is a correlation between the two, and if ‘the strength of weak ties’ can help us understand suicide as theorized by Durkheim.
Firstly, what are ties? And what is a weak tie? ‘Ties’ are what makes a social network. ’The strength of a tie is a (probably linear) combination of the amount of time, the emotional intensity, the intimacy (mutual confiding) and the reciprocal services which characterise the tie’. In short, a strong tie would be a close network of people, e.g. family or close friends and weak ties would be acquaintances, e.g. friends of friends. Weak ties are what interlock society. ‘If two people in a social network have a friend in common, then there is an increased likelihood that they will become friends themselves at some point in the future’. This means the most weak ties someone has, the more integrated they become into the wider community. ‘This argument has macro level implications. If each person’s close friends know one another, they form a closely knit clique. Individuals are then connected to other cliques through their weak rather than their strong ties’ Granovetter illustrates this in ‘The strength of Weak Ties’. Previously he used the example of job finding. He discovered that the majority of people who found their jobs through social contacts found them through what would be described as’ weak ties’ Of those who found jobs through personal contacts…16.7% reported seeing their contact often, 55.6% reported seeing their contact occasionally, and 27.8% rarely. Secondly, what is Durkheim’s theory of suicide?
References: Baller, Robert D. and Kelly K. Richardson, 'The "Dark Side" Of the Strength of Weak Ties: The Diffusion of Suicidal Thoughts ', Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 50 (2009), 261-76.
Durkheim, Emile and George Simpson, Suicide: A Study in Sociology (London: Routledge, 1952).
Granovetter, Mark S., 'The Strength of Weak Ties ', American Journal of Sociology, 78 (1973), 1360-80,
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