First 548 words of the document:
Durkheim used suicide to demonstrate that a scientific sociology was possible.
Using official statistics he demonstrated that integration and regulation determined
the type and levels of suicide. Durkheim's work has had a lasting influence on the
sociology of crime and deviance in terms of the way it is studied and explanations
of criminal and deviant behaviour. Douglas criticises Durkheim for using official
statistics, since these are merely the product of coroners' labels, and for ignoring
individual meanings of suicide. Realists raise question marks over both positivist
and interpretivist approaches to suicide.
Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the contribution of studies of
suicide to a sociological understanding of deviance in society. (21 marks)
Studying suicide highlights various important methodological issues as it shows how both
theory and methods are connected. Studies of suicide have had major impacts on how crime
and deviance is studied and explained. Positivist approaches accepts official suicide statistics
and offer a structural causal explanation of suicide, whereas the interpretivist approach
rejects official suicide statistics and instead looks at how suicide statistics can be socially
Durkheim used a quantitative approach to `demonstrate that a scientific sociology was
possible' (Item A). He used the comparative method and compared official statistics on
suicide between many countries and subgroups within societies. Durkheim believed that
official statistics on crime were social facts that were reliable and allowed him to prove that
suicide, regardless of it being an individual's act, was caused by other social factors and
external forces that shape our behaviour. This methodological approach has influenced how
deviance is studied e.g. subcultural, environmental and realist theories on crime largely
accept official statistics on crime, taking them at face value, and subsequently developing
theories around them.
Durkheim found that suicide rates and social facts vary between countries e.g. Denmark has
a higher suicide rate than Italy and the UK, and can also vary between subcultures within
countries e.g. Catholics have lower suicide rates than Protestants. He found that the patterns
are relatively stable over time.
Durkheim concluded that the stability of the suicide rates suggested that suicide was caused
by structural social facts and external social forces.
Durkheim argued that the underlying social fact causing suicide was either too much or too
little social control of the individual by society and believed it was a causal law. He explained
that social control, through `integration and regulation' (Item A), was important to create
social order in society, but if it became out of balance, four types of suicide could be
created. The first type, egoistic, occurs if there is a lack of social integration e.g. divorced
people or Protestants who have less shared ritual than Catholics. Altruistic suicide is due to
over integration e.g. suicide bombers. Anomic suicide is because of a lack of regulation e.g.
the high rates of suicide amongst the unemployed and high rates during recession. Fatalistic
suicide occurs as there is over regulation, for example prisoners who commit suicide.
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Durkheim's structural causal theory of suicide has influenced the way that deviance is
explained e.g. subcultural, environmental and realist theories offer causal explanations of
Durkheim's contribution can be seen by a strength by Cavan that explains that suicide rates
in Chicago are higher in areas that have lower levels of integration. Halbwachs also supports
Durkheim's work and ideas on the structural causes of suicide however he argues that
locality causes the variations in suicide.…read more
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Douglas found that acts of suicide in Western societies could be understood in terms of
various individual meanings: repentance, escape, revenge or a search for either help or
sympathy. He concluded that suicide is an individual act which has personal and social
meanings and varies between cultures. Douglas' work has contributed to society and we can
see this though Baechler's empirical support.…read more