Durkheim's study of suicide
Durkheim picked suicide because if he managed to link this to society rather than just psychology, then the value of sociology would be established.
The suicide rate
This means the number of people who kill themselves in a particular society/group in a certain period of time. Durkheim based his research on the rate of suicide per million inhabitants in different European countries. This showed:
- Suicide rates varied between different countries. Generally higher in Protestant than Catholic countries.
- When suicide rates across Europe rose and fell, the differences between countries remained.
- The rise and fall in suicide rates seemed to be related to social factors, e.g. the economy.
- The suicide rate between different groups within the same society varied, e.g. the unmarried and married had different rates.
Explaining suicide rates
Suicide and society
Durkheim believed patterns in suicide rates couldn't be explained in terms of the psychology of the individuals. The answer lay in the relationship between the individual and society - particularly how integrated and regulated they are.
In a well integrated society, individuals are bound together by shared norm and values. The level of integration is measurable by the strength and number of relationships between individuals. In a well integrates society, people have powerful duties and obligations to one another. Levels of integration vary between groups within society.
This also varies between societies. It refers to the control society has over it's members - how much it regulates their behaviour.
Without regulation people's desires are limitless. Society limits desires by putting specific goals and ways of achieving them.
Durkheim was concerned with how society was maintained. His answer was correct levels of integration and regulation.
He believed too little would disrupt the norms and values and make society 'unbalanced', and that this was happening in modern society, causing the rise in suicides.
Too little was also bad as it would prevent the necessary change occurring.
Types of suicide
- Altruistic suicide occurs when the integration is too strong
- Egoistic suicide occurs when the integration is too weak
- Fatalistic suicide occurs when the regulation is too strong
- Anomic suicide occurs when the regulation is too weak
This means acting unselfishly, having concern for others even it's harmful to yourself. This type of suicide occurs when the individual is to strongly integrated that they take their own lives out of duty.
This can be seen in traditional Hindu India, where a wife would throw herself onto her husbands funeral pyre and burn to death.
Durkheim believes that this type of suicide is rare in modern society.
Fatalism is a belief that nothing can be done to change the situation. It occurs when there's too much regulation, too much control of the individuals. An example is slavery. Suicide is like an escape.
This occurs when the individual increasingly stands alone. Durkheim saw it as characteristic of societies…