Durkheim, positivism and suicide
Durkheim (1897) argued that there are patterns in suicide and their social causes could be discovered. This would prove sociology was a science.
Suicide rates as social facts
In Durkheim's view, behaviour is caused by social facts - forces found in the structure of society. Social facts are external to individuals; they constrain individuals, shaping their behaviour, and are greater than individuals - they exist on a different 'level'. For Durkheim the suicide rate is a social fact.
Using official statistics for various European countries, Durkheim found that:
- Different societies have different rates.
- Within a society, rates varied between social groups; e.g. Catholics had lower rates than Protestants.
Evaluation - Durkheim was the first to use multivariate analysis, enabling him to correlate suicide rates with other scial factors, e.g. religion etc. WIthout this, it would not be possible to establish cause-and-effect relationships.
For Durkheim, such patterns show that suicide rates are the result of two social facts:
- Social integration: how far individuals experience a sense of belonging to a group.
- Moral regulation: how far individuals' actions are kept in check by norms.
Durkheim's typology of suicide
This gives four types of suicide:
1. Egoistic suicide (too little integration); e.g. Catholics have a lower rate than Protestants because they are more tightly intergrated by shared ritual.
2. Altruistic suicide (too much integration), where it is the individual's duty to die for the good of the group, e.g. Japanese kamikaze pilots.
3. Anomic suicide (too little regulation), where society's norms become unclear or outdated by rapid change, e.g. economic booms and slumps.
4. Fatalistic suicide (too much regulation), where society controls individuals completely, e.g. slaves and prisoners.
Different types of society have different types of suicide:
- In modern societies, individualism is more important, causing egoistic suicides. Individuals have…