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A Project on


Submitted to Dr. Uttam Kumar Panda (Faculty of Sociology)

Submitted by Shalvik Tiwari

Roll No. 136 Semester-II B.A. LL.B. (Hons.)


Table of Contents
Acknowledgements...............................................................................................................3 Introduction...........................................................................................................................4 Objective...............................................................................................................................5 Research methodology.........................................................................................................5 To study the biographical sketch of Emile Durkheim................................................6 To study the Durkheims Theory and Typology of suicide........................................7 To study the causes of suicide according to Durkheim..............................................8 To study the Durkheims views of explaining the concept of suicide.........................9 To study the Durkheims Types of suicide...............................................................9 To examine criticism of the theory.........................................................................13 Conclusion.............................................................................................................................14 Reference................................................................................................................................15


In preparing this project I took help from many people but it is very difficult to list every name. First and foremost I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to Mr. Ayan Hazra for putting his trust on me, by giving me such a topic and for him unstinted support by helping me in all possible ways. I hope that I have not disappointed him and have done justice to it. I also want to express my gratitude to the staff and administration of HNLU and to the library and IT Lab that was a source of great help for the completion of this project. I would also like to thank all my seniors who always guided me without their help, it would have been impossible for me to complete this project. Shalvik Tiwari Roll no.136


INTRODUCTION:David Emile Durkheim (April 15, 1858 November 15, 1917) was a French sociologist. He formally established the academic discipline and, with Karl Marx and Max Weber, is commonly cited as the principal architect of modern social science and father of sociology. Much of Durkheim's work was concerned with how societies could maintain their integrity and coherence in modernity; an era in which traditional social and religious ties are no longer assumed, and in which new social institutions have come into being. His first major sociological work was The Division of Labour in Society (1893). In 1895, he published his Rules of the Sociological Method and set up the first European department of sociology, becoming France's first professor of sociology. Durkheim's seminal

monograph, Suicide (1897), a study of suicide rates amongst Catholic and Protestant populations, pioneered modern social research and served to distinguish social science from psychology and political philosophy. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912) presented a theory of religion, comparing the social and cultural lives of aboriginal and modern societies. Durkheim was also deeply preoccupied with the acceptance of sociology as a legitimate science. He refined the positivism originally set forth by Auguste Comte, promoting what could be considered as a form of epistemological realism, as well as the use of the hypothetico-deductive model in social science. For him, sociology was the science of institutions, its aim being to discover structural social facts. Durkheim was a major proponent of structural functionalism, a foundational perspective in both sociology and anthropology. In his view, social science should be purely holistic; that is, sociology should study phenomena attributed to society at large, rather than being limited to the specific actions of individuals. He remained a dominant force in French intellectual life until his death in 1917, presenting numerous lectures and published works on a variety of topics, including the sociology of knowledge, morality, social stratification, religion, law, education, and deviance.

Durkheimian terms such as "collective consciousness" have since entered the popular lexicon.


OBJECTIVE: To study the biographical sketch of Emile Durkheim. To study the Durkheims Theory and Typology of suicide. To study the causes of suicide according to Durkheim. To study the Durkheims views of explaining the concept of suicide To study the Durkheims Types of suicide. To examine criticism of the theory

Research Methodology:Data type: -This project based on Emile Durkheims theory of suicide. This research is descriptive and analytical in nature. Secondary sources have been largely used to gather information and data about topic. Other references as guided by Faculty have been primarily helpful in giving this project a firm structure. Help has also been taken from web sites, reference books etc.


Biographical Sketch of Emile Durkheim

Emile Durkheim, one of the important pioneers in the field of sociology, was born in 1858 at Epinal in France. He was the most prominent French sociologist of the 19th century. He was born in a Jewish family at Epinal in the eastern French province of Lorraine on 15th April, 1858. He studied Hebrew Language, the Old Testament, and the Talmud at early age. He was an erudite scholar, a deep thinker, a progressive educationist, an effective writer and a strict disciplinarian. In spite of this background he remained an agnostic throughout his life. He had a bright student career in the college at Epinal and won several prizes. He was not happy with the conventional subjects taught at the school and college level. He longed for schooling in scientific methods and in the moral principles needed to contribute to the moral guidance of society. Although he was interested in scientific sociology there was not one at that time. He graduated from the famous college of Paris Ecole Normale. Between 1882 and 1887 he taught philosophy in a number of provincial schools in Paris and surrounding area. Durkheims love for education took him to Germany where he was exposed to the scientific psychology being pioneered by Wilhelm Wundt. After his return from Germany he went on publishing several articles based on his experience there. These publications earned him a prominent place in the department of philosophy at University of Bordeaux in 1887. He was later asked to head the newly created department of Social Science. Thereafter Durkheim and his writings became famous. Durkheim had evinced in socialism. The moral degeneration of the French society brought him great disappointment. In this state of disappointment he died in his 59th year in 1917. His influence on sociology is a lasting one. The journal which he started Anne Sociologique [in 1896] still continues to serve, as one of the leading journals of sociological thought. Though Durkheim is no more, functionalism, sociology of education, sociology of law, sociology of religion etc. started by him, are still alive.


Durkheims Theory and Typology of suicide

Durkheim began working on the problem of Suicide in 1888 while he was at Bordeaux. His interest in the problem was aroused while he was working on an article related to suicide and the birth rate. Suicide is an indication of disorganisation of both individual and society. Increasing number of suicide clearly indicates something wrong somewhere in the social system of the concerned society. Durkheim has studied this problem at some length. In suicide, he demonstrated that social facts, in particular social currents, are external to, and coercive of, the individual. Durkheims attempt to formulate a social theory of suicide led him look for the cause of suicide within the framework of society rather than in the psychological states of individuals. Durkheims study of suicide begins with a definition of the phenomenon. He then proceeds to refute the earlier interpretations of suicide. Finally, he develops a general theory of the phenomenon. i. Definition of suicide Durkheim defines suicide as follows: The term suicide is applied to all cases of death resulting directly or indirectly from a positive or negative act of the victim himself, which he knows will produce this result. According to Durkheim, suicide refers to every case of death resulting directly or indirectly from a positive or negative death performed by the victim himself and which strives to phenomenon. He puts this clearly when he stated that, the causes of death are outside rather than within us, and are effective only if we venture into their sphere of activity. The suicide act, which at first seems to express only the personal temperament of the individual, is really the supplement and prolongation of a social condition which they express externally. It is clear from the definition of Durkheim that suicide is a conscious act and the person concerned is fully aware of its consequences. The person who shoots himself to death, or drinks severe poison, jumps down from the 10th storey of a building, for example, is fully aware of the consequences of such an act. ii. Purpose behind this study

Durkheim used a number of statistical records to establish his fundamental idea that suicide is also a social fact and social order and disorder are at the very root of suicide. He made use of statistical analysis for two primary reasons. These are :{i} To refute theories of suicide based


on psychology, biology, genetics, climate, and geographic factors. {ii}To support with empirical evidence of his own sociological explanation of suicide.

Causes of suicide according to Durkheim

Durkheim displays an Extreme Form of Sociological Realism- Durkheim is of the firm belief that suicide is not an individual act or a private and personal action. It is caused by some power which is over and above the individual of super-individual. It is not personal situation but a manifestation of a social condition. He speaks of suicide currents as collective tendencies that dominate some vulnerable persons. The act of suicide is nothing but the manifestation of these currents. Durkheim has selected the instance or event of suicide to demonstrate the function of sociological theory. Durkheim chooses Statistical Method to know the cause of suicideStatistics on suicide were readily available, and Durkheim chooses to analyze them. Durkheim was interested in explaining differences in suicide rates, that is, he was interested in why one group had a higher rate of suicide than another. For the analysis of suicide rates, Durkheim gave the concept of social suicide rate. The social suicide rate is a term used by Durkheim to refer to the number of suicide deaths in a given society and the extent to which the rates themselves could be looked upon as establishing a pattern of suicide for a given society. Durkheim arrived at the concept of the social suicide rate by a careful examination of mortality data which had been obtained from public records of societies such as France, Prussia, England, Denmark and Austria. These records contained information about cause of death, age, marital background, religion and the total number of deaths by suicide of the country from which they were gathered. Durkheim Rejects Extra Social factors as the causes of suicideDurkheim repudiated most of the accepted theories of suicide. Like

His monographic study demonstrated that heredity, for example, is not a sufficient explanation of suicide. Climatic and geographic factors are equally insufficient as explanatory factors. Likewise, waves of imitation are inadequate explanations. He also established the fact that suicide is not necessarily caused by the psychological factors.

Durkheim accepts Social Forces are the Real Causes of SuicideSuicide are a highly individual act. In his attempts to substantiate this fact he came to know that the incidence of suicide varied from one social group or set up to another. Protestants were more likely to commit suicide than Catholics; people in large cities were more likely to commit suicide than people living in families. Durkheim isolated one independent variable that lay behind these differences: the extent to which the individual was integrated into a social bond with others. People with fragile or weaker ties to their community are more likely to take their own lives than people who have stronger ties.

Durkheim Views of explaining the concept of Suicide

Durkheim explores the differing suicide rates among Protestants and Catholics, arguing that stronger social control among Catholics results in lower suicide rates. According to Durkheim, Catholic society has normal levels of integration while Protestant society has low levels. There are at least two problems with this interpretation. First, Durkheim took most of his data from earlier researchers, notably Adolph Wagner and Henry Morselli, who were much more careful in generalizing from their own data. Second, later researchers found that the Protestant-Catholic differences in suicide seemed to be limited to German-speaking Europe and thus may always have been the spurious reflection of other factors. Despite its limitations, Durkheim's work on suicide has influenced proponents of control theory, and is often mentioned as a classic sociological study. Durkheim established that:

Suicide rates are higher in men than women (although married women who remained childless for a number of years ended up with a high suicide rate)

Suicide rates are higher for those who are single than those who are married Suicide rates are higher for people without children than people with children Suicide rates are higher among Protestants than Catholics and Jews Suicide rates are higher among soldiers than civilians Suicide rates are higher in times of peace than in times of war (the suicide rate in France fell after of, for example. War also reduced the suicide rate, after between Austria and Italy; the suicide rate fell by 14% in both countries.)

Suicide rates are higher in Scandinavian countries the higher the education level, the more likely it was that an individual would commit suicide, however Durkheim established that there is more correlation between an individual's religion and suicide rate than an individual's education level; Jewish people were generally highly educated but had a low suicide rate.

Types of Suicide
He also distinguished between four subtypes of suicide. These four types of suicide are based on the degrees of imbalance of two social forces: social integration and social regulation. Integration refers to the degree to which collective sentiments are shared or the strength of the social bonds between the individual and society. Here, egoistic and altruistic suicide from opposite poles of social integration. In the second part of theory, social regulation, in the contrast to integration, refers to the restraints imposed by society on individual needs and wants. Here, anomic and fatalistic suicides form opposite poles of social regulation. Durkheim noted the effects of various crises on social aggregates war, for example, leading to an increase in altruism, economic boom or disaster contributing to anomie.

1. Egoistic suicide: - The term egoism originates from the 19


century and was widely

used by Durkheim and others at the time to indicate the breakdown of social ties. Egoism can be described as the process by which individuals death themselves from society by turning their activity inward and by retreating into themselves. Egoism is characterised by excessive self-reflection on personal matters and a withdrawn from the outside world. It reflects a prolonged sense of not belonging, of not being integrated in a community, an experience, of not having a tether, an absence that can give rise to meaninglessness, apathy, melancholy, and depression1. It is the result of a weakening of the bonds that normally integrate individuals into the collectively: in other words a breakdown or

Stark, Rodney and William Sims Bainbridge. 1996. Religion, Deviance and Social Control. Routledge,

Google Print p. 32

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decrease of social integration2. Durkheim refers to this type of suicide as the result of "excessive individuation", meaning that the individual becomes increasingly detached from other members of his community. Those individuals who were not sufficiently bound to social groups (and therefore well-defined values, traditions, norms, and goals) were left with little social support or guidance, and therefore tended to commit suicide on an increased basis3. An example Durkheim discovered was that of unmarried people, particularly males, who, with less to bind and connect them to stable social norms and goals, committed suicide at higher rates than married people4. Hence, High rates of egoistic suicide are likely to be found in those societies, collectivities, or groups in which the individual is not well integrated into the larger social unit. Societies with a strong collective conscience and the protective, enveloping social currents that flow from it are likely to prevent- the widespread occurrence of egoistic suicide. In fact, strongly integrated families, religious groups and politics act as agent of a strong collective conscience and discourage suicide. For example, regardless of race and nationality, Catholics show far less suicides than Protestants. Durkheim stated that the superiority of Pretestantism with respect to suicide results from its being a less strongly integrated church than the Catholic Church. Family, like religious group, is second powerful counter agent against suicide. Non-marriage increases the tendency to suicide, while marriage reduces the danger by half. Family life reduces egoism by ensuring that greater concentrations of commitment are focused within the family rather than on individual and this, in this, acts to suppress the tendency to withdraw. Political or national group is the 3rd powerful counter agent against suicide. This is more obscure category than either religion or the family and is less developed by Durkheim than the other forms of attachment. Political society, according to Durkheim, refers to the type of social bonds which occur between the individual and society at large and encompasses the type of links which develop between individuals and their national group. On the basis of collected facts, Durkheim outlined that instead of breaking social ties, severe social

Pope, Whitney, and Nick Danigelis. 1981. "Sociology's One Law," Social Forces 60:496-514.

Harriford, Diane, and Thomson "When the Center is on Fire" pg. 165 Thompson, Kenneth. 1982. Emile Durkheim. London: Tavistock Publications, pp. 109-111

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disruption brought about by a political crisis increases the intensity of collective sentiments and stimulates patriotism. This increases social integration between the individual and the group and causes a stronger integration of society.
2. Altruistic suicide : - It is characterized by a sense of being overwhelmed by a group's goals

and beliefs. 5 This kind of suicide results from the over-integration of the individual into his social group. Durkheim first made his observations about altruistic suicide by looking at tribal societies. He observed that social customs in these societies played a high degree of social honour on individuals who take their own lives in the name of social purposes greater than themselves. It occurs in societies with high integration, where individual needs are seen as less important than the society's needs as a whole. They thus occur on the opposite integration scale as egoistic suicide. As individual interest would not be considered important, Durkheim stated that in an altruistic society there would be little reason for people to commit suicide. He stated one exception, namely when the individual is expected to kill themselves on behalf of society a primary example being the soldier in military service. In this category, Durkheim lists three specific types of suicides:
a) The suicide of older men threatened with severe illness; b) The suicide of women on the death bed of their husbands; c) The suicide of followers on the death of their chiefs.

Under these circumstances, people take their own lives not because they take the personal right to do, but because a social duty is imposed upon them by society. Some of examples of altruistic suicide are women throwing themselves at the funeral pyre of their husbands (known as sati in India); Danish warriors killing themselves in old age; the Goths jumping to their death from high pinnacles to escape the ignominy of natural death; suicide of follower and servants on the death of their chiefs; Japanese Harakiri, self-immolation by Buddhist monks, self- homicide by army suicide squads and self-destruction in Nirvana under Brahminic are other variants of altruistic suicide. Durkheim maintained that altruistic suicide takes several different forms: Obligatory altruistic suicide:- In this category, society imposes an explicit on individuals to take their own life, but this duty may lack specific coercive pressure from the community.

Harriford, Diane, and Thomson "When the Center is on Fire" pg.166

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Optional altruistic suicide :- In this category, the demand placed on the individual by the community is less explicitly clarified or less expressly required than in circumstances where suicide is strictly obligatory.

Acute altruistic suicide :- In this category, acute altruistic suicide, the individual renounces life for the acute felt joy of sacrifice.

3. Anomic suicide:- It reflects an individual's moral confusion and lack of social direction,

which is related to dramatic social and economic upheaval. 6It is the product of moral deregulation and a lack of definition of legitimate aspirations through a restraining social ethic, which could impose meaning and order on the individual conscience. This is symptomatic of a failure of economic development and division of labour to produce Durkheim's organic solidarity. People do not know where they fit in within their societies. Durkheim explains that this is a state of moral disorder where man does not know the limits on his desires, and is constantly in a state of disappointment. This can occur when man goes through extreme changes in wealth; while this includes economic ruin, it can also include windfall gains - in both cases, previous expectations from life are brushed aside and new expectations are needed before he can judge his new situation in relation to the new limits. 4. Fatalistic suicide:-It is the opposite of anomic suicide, when a person is excessively regulated, when their futures are pitilessly blocked and passions violently choked by oppressive discipline7. It occurs in overly oppressive societies, causing people to prefer to die than to carry on living within their society. This is an extremely rare reason for people to take their own lives, but a good example would be within a prison; people prefer to die than live in a prison with constant abuse and excessive regulation that prohibits them from pursuing their desires.

6 7

Harriford, Diane, and Thomson "When the Center is on Fire" pg.166 Harriford, Diane, and Thomson "When the Center is on Fire" pg.166

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Durkheim's study of suicide has been criticized as an example of the logical error termed the ecological fallacy. Durkheim has given importance only to social factors in suicide. In doing so, he has neglected the role of other factors, especially the psychological. Hence this is a one-sided view. The theory is based upon a very small sample of data concerning suicide. As criminologists have pointed out, economic, psychological and even religious factors may lead to suicide. But Durkheim did not give any importance to these factors. Indeed, Durkheim's conclusions about individual behaviour (e.g. suicide) are based on aggregate statistics (the suicide rate among Protestants and Catholics). This type of inference, explaining micro events in terms of macro properties, is often misleading, as is shown by examples of Simpson's paradox. However, diverging views have contested whether Durkheim's work really contained an ecological fallacy. Van Poppel and Day (1996) have advanced that difference in suicide rates between Catholics and Protestants were explicable entirely in terms of how deaths were categorized between the two social groups. For instance, while "sudden deaths" or "deaths from ill-defined or unspecified cause" would often be recorded as suicides among Protestants, this would not be the case for Catholics. Hence Durkheim would have committed an empirical rather than logical error. Some, such as Inkeles (1959), Johnson (1965) and Gibbs (1968), have claimed that Durkheim's only intent was to explain suicide sociologically within a holistic perspective, emphasizing that "he intended his theory to explain variation among social environments in the incidence of suicide, not the suicides of particular individuals." More recent authors such as Berk (2006) have also questioned the micro-macro relations underlying Durkheim's work. For instance, Berk notices that Durkheim speaks of a "collective current" that reflects the collective inclination flowing down the channels of social organization. The intensity of the current determines the volume of suicides Introducing psychological [i.e. individual] variables such as depression, [which could be seen as] an independent [non-social] cause of suicide, overlooks Durkheim's conception that these variables are the ones most likely to be effected by the larger social forces and without these forces suicide may not occur within such individuals. Jennifer M. Lehmann critiques Durkheim's major works such as Suicide from a feminist, Structuralist Marxist, multiculturalist perspective, and a Deconstructionist method, in
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Deconstructing Durkheim (Routledge 1993); Durkheim and Women (University of Nebraska Press 1994); and chapters and articles in Sociological Theory (1990); Current Perspectives in Sociological Theory (1991); American Sociological Review (1995); and American Journal of Sociological Theory (1995).

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In simple words, he is recognised as one of the greatest social thinker and academic sociologists of France who has developed sociological concepts, methodology, theories and so on. It is clear from the definition of Durkheim that suicide is a conscious act and the person concerned is fully aware of its consequences. Durkheim is of the firm belief that suicide is not an individual act or a private and personal action. It is caused by some power. Durkheim put forward three concepts making up a social theory of suicide: egoistic, altruistic and anomie. The first two suicides, egoistic and altruistic, explain suicide by looking at the framework of social attachment to society which Durkheim called social integration. The third concept, anomic suicide, on the other hand, belongs to framework which explains suicide by looking at the changes in the regulatory mechanism of society. Egoistic suicide results from the lack of integration of the individual into his social group. The first type of suicide occurs due to over develop of individualism, while second is due to a lack of development at the level of individual. Atomic suicide, in contrast, occurs because of the reduction of the regulatory mechanism of society. In fact, fatalistic suicide has little relevance in the real world. Durkheim displayed an extreme form of sociological realism. A successful attempt is made in this theory to establish logically the link between social solidarity, social control and suicide. Durkheim has thrown light on the various faces of suicide.

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Rao, C. N. Shankar (2006). Sociology: Principles of Sociology with an Introduction to Social Thought. S. Chand & Company Ltd. New Delhi. Choudhary, Sujit Kumar (2006). Thinkers and Theories in Sociology: From Comte to Giddens. Gagandeep Publications, New Delhi.


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