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DURKHEIM, POSITIVISM AND
SUICIDE
· Durkheim believed our behaviour is caused by social facts; social
forces found in the structure of society
· Steven Lukes: Social facts have three features;
1. They are external to individuals
2. They constrain individuals, shaping their behaviour
3. They are greater than individuals ­ they exists on a different level
· Using quantitative data from official statistics, Durkheim looked at
suicide rates in different European countries
· He notes four regular patterns;
1. Suicide rate remained more or less constant over time
2. When the rates did change, this coincided with other changes
3. Different societies have different rates
4. The rates varied considerably between different social groups…read more

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DURKHEIM'S FOUR TYPES OF
SUICIDE
· Identifies two social facts that determine the rate of suicide;
· Social integration ­ The extent to which individuals experience a
sense of belonging to a group and obligation to its members
· Moral regulation ­ The extent to which individuals' actions and
desires are kept in check by norms and values
· Suicide results from either too little or too much integration or
regulation
· He identifies four different types of suicide
· Egoistic ­ Under integrated in society e.g. Catholic vs. Protestants
· Altruistic ­ Over integrated in society e.g. Suicide bombers
· Anomic ­ Lack of regulation exists e.g. rapid change
· Fatalistic ­ Too much regulation and control e.g. Prisoners or
slaves…read more

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EVALUATION OF DURKHEIM
His study was used for 70 years as an excellent example of how to
undertake a positivistic sociological analysis
His analysis depends on the concept of social cohesion but he does
not provide a definition of it
Claimed that social integration was linked to religion and family
members but provides no explanation of how it can be verified or
falsified
Relied largely upon official statistics which are open to dispute
Interpretivists: suicide statistics should be treated as social
constructs…read more

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LATER POSITIVIST APPROACHES
Maurice Halbwachs:
· Agreed with the scientific approach that Durkheim used
· Differences between urban & rural residence were the main
reasons for variations
Sainsbury: Found that suicide rates in London boroughs were highest
where the levels of social disorganisation were highest
Gibbs & Martin:
· Saw Durkheim's as `the foremost sociological theory of variability in
suicide rates'
· Define integration as a situation where they are stable and lasting
relationships
A02:
· Criticised Durkheim because he appeared to have not defined
integration which lead to problems when trying to measure data…read more

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DOUGLAS: THE SOCIAL MEANINGS
OF SUICIDE
· Decision to classify a death as suicide is influenced by social factors
· This produces bias in the verdicts reached and could explain the
patterns Durkheim found
· E.g. The high rates of integration means friends and family deny
the death as a suicide by contrast, low integrated individuals have
nobody to opposed the verdict of suicide
· Douglas notes the motive varies dependant on the culture
· We must classify each death according to its actual meaning
· To do this, we use qualitative methods & sources to produce case
studies based on analysis of suicides note etc
· In Western societies, the social meanings include; escape,
repentance, search for help, self-punishment, revenge &
seriousness…read more

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