Sunday, December 6, 2020

Durkheim / Suicide as a Social Phenomenon - short summary

The chapter "Suicide as a Social Phenomenon" from Emil Durkheim's book 'Suicide' is mainly layed out so that the way to explain the fixed number of suicides per year for each society is, by social sociological terms, by the value structure of society. Throughout the episode, Durkheim makes conflicting claims and refutes them.

Durkheim argues that although the phenomenon of suicide appears to be an individual act influenced by personal circumstances, this is not the case. The number of suicides in society is more stable than mortality rates. Suicides are also a small minority scattered in society without any interconnections. Despite the turnover of people in society (birth and death), The suicide rate remains constant as long as society does not change. It follows that suicide is not a personal but social phenomenon that depends on the value structure of society and according to Durkheim on the level the level of cohesion in it. These variables (values ​​and cohesion) explain the differences between societies and the uniformity within society, and the different suicide rates in each society.

Durkheim argues that the joint actions of individuals create a new kind of existence. Individual consciousness merges into a collective consciousness different from that of a specific individual. Society is not qualitatively identical to the sum of its parts, but their combination is different from the private experience. A detailed analysis of different states (states of consciousness) cannot explain how beliefs and customs are formed (Durkheim argues that they do not develop as a result of experience). Example; Monotheistic belief. This is true of all other areas like law and moral institutions and any other aspect of collective life. Society is made up of individuals, but they have a common collective consciousness. that works towards them from the outside and influences the most intimate details in life - suicide. Society is 'bigger' than the person and precede him.

Durkheim gives the example of morality, and argued that man is not particularly moral and it is society that influences him from the outside to practice morality, according to its values, a collective conscience. Society is a collective force stronger than the power of the individual. Religion or social practice can exist independently of their individual expressions (society does not).

According to Durkheim, every moral idea consists of egoism, altruism, and some degree of anomie. Social life is based on the assumption that the individual has a certain personality that he is willing to give up if the community demands it. The three streams mentioned are found in every nation and affect man. When one prevails over the other a person tends to commit suicide. The stronger the current, the stronger its impact on the act of suicide. The power of the current depends on three factors: -The nature of the individuals that make up the company. The nature of the social organization. - Crises that affect the functioning of collective life without changing the structure. Attributes play a role, can affect, but only if they are present in all individuals, that is general.

Durkheim argues that the social conditions on which the number of suicides depends are the only ones that can change. This is why the number of suicides remains stable, as long as society does not change. Society shapes the individual according to its own image. Therefore collective power pushes people to end their lives.

To sum up suicide according to Durkheim is a result of society's values ​​and cohesion. The difference between companies is in the number of suicides. Society is not prone to change and therefore the number of suicides remains constant.


Additional article summaries by Emile Durkheim:

"The Genesis of the Notion of the Totemic Principle or Mana" – summary and review" - part 1 -2 -3
What is Social Fact?
Division of Labor in Society 
Elementary Forms of Religious Life
Moral Education
Types of Suicide according to Emile Durkheim
Anomie according to Durkheim

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