Positivism - Durkheim

Durkheims 2 Social Facts:

  • social integration - refers to the level to which individuals experience a sense of belonging or obligation to their community
  • moral regulation - refers to the level individuals actions or desires are kept in check by norms and values 

4 types of Suicide

  • egoistic suicide - too little social integration, most common, excessive individualism and lack of social ties and obligations - educated man killing himself when his wife leaves him
  • altruistic suicide - too much social integration, self sacrifice for good of the group, duty to die - suicide bombers, inuits 
  • anomic suicide - too little moral regulation, anomie occurs and fear of the unknown causes death - greek suicides after economic crash 
  • fatalistic suicide - too much moral regulation, can not change the future so gives up - teachers and prisoners 
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Durkheim Evaluation

  • only argues external factors lead to suicide
  • should not look for patterns in such an individual act 
  • too heavily linked to religion
  • Durkheim suggests that individuals know and understand the importance of external forces and for most this is not the case 
  • too heavily reliance on official statistics 
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Interpretivism - Douglas

Critique of Durkheim

  • suicide is internally motivated 
  • each act is individual and unique 
  • impossible to discover the cause of suicide 
  • suicide is socially constructed 

A different approach to social integration

  • if a person is well integrated their suicide can be covered up 
  • social isolation means no opposing verdicts to the coroners 
  • overall integration affects the likelyhood of a death being recorded 

Typology of Suicidal Meanings 

  • Western Reasoning inclused escape, repentance, self puishment, revenge ect
  • Other cultures may be more religious reasoning 
  • Transforming soul, transforming oneself. achieving fellow feelings or gaining revenge 
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Douglas Evaluation

  • interviewing technique is highly subjectice
  • results could have been easily skewed 
  • unreliable data
  • criticises himself, while suggesting each suicide is unique he suggests they follow patterns which would not be the case if they were unique 
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Interpretivism - Atkins

How do we label a death a suicide?

  • quantitative methods are useles as they are influenced easily
  • exact numbers of suicides will never be known 
  • 'guessing suicides'

Coroners are influenced by;

  • the suicide note 
  • mode of death
  • clues to a potetial suicide 
  • life history and mental health
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Atkins Evaluation

Problems with a Suicide Note

  • could have been written by someone else
  • may not be a suicide note
  • could have been destroyed

Overall methodological problems 

  • highly subjective
  • not always this type of evidence available
  • unreliable 
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Realists - Taylor

Aims to bring the two approaches together. Agrees that suicide stats are not valid and but neither is interviewing as it is all based on the social construction of suicide. We must instead study both suicides and parasuicides 

There is patern and explanation for suicides, aims to find the underlying structures and causes

Ectopic Suicide (self directed)

  • submissive suicide - let me die, certainty of future and are deadly serious - terminally ill
  • thenatation suicide - uncertain of themself, risk taking - Sylvia Plath 

Symbolistic Suicide (other directed)

  • sacrifice suicide - certain about others, deadly serious, impossible to go on, blame placed on others - killing themselves when a partner leaves
  • appeal suicide - uncertain about others, doubts about their own importane, form of communication to change others behaviour, acts of despair and hope 
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Taylor Evaluation

  • best approach
  • draws on strength of earlier approaches 
  • uses the only people who truly understand suicide 
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