Blog #2–Inside: Durkheim and his ideas

Emile Durkheim’s idea of suicide in society is not due to biological change or due to change in power. However; it is due to change in character and economic change. Suicide is defined as “any death which is immediate or eventual result of a positive (e.g. shooting oneself) or negative (e.g. refusing to eat) accomplished by the victim himself.”(Durkheim Home Page) Durkheim believed that suicide is considered the most personal act any human can undertake. Suicide is not a result of imitation but rather an act that is a reflection of the change in character and the change in the economy. He claimed that each social group had a specific tendency to suicide and it is depended upon the social causes with the social types. Durkheim listed two types of suicide; altruistic and egoistic suicide with different level of integration and regulation. Integration is the level of collective spirit that the beliefs, values and knowledge are shared by members of society. Regulation is the level of constraint on people who shares and follows the same common norms in society.

The first suicide as presented in Durkheim’s theory is altruistic suicide; altruistic suicide correlates to a high integration into society. It is when an individual in a group is forced into committing suicide. For instance, InJapan, there is a high a level of suicide amongst students because of stress and high expectations from others. Students inJapanare constantly pressured to do better in school and excel in exams, often these stress and anxiety pushes them to commit suicide. Suicide becomes the answer to freedom of oppression from what society expects individuals to be. Altruistic suicide is most often voluntary where an individual decides to act upon based on his or her own will. An individual is usually attached to the society; his or her actions are reflected by the effect of society norms and expectations.  Another example of altruistic suicide is hero suicide, where a fire fighter saves a person from a burning fire but the fire-fighter dies after inhaling too much smoke. This fire-fighter volunteered to save the other individual barricaded in the burning building. Durkheim exclaimed that altruistic suicide is part of the “collective spirit.” For instance when the spirit ask you to do something, you are obliged to do so.

The second suicide Durkheim illustrated is Egoistic suicide. Egoistic suicide is when an individual is not tied to a group and experience a sense of meaninglessness to life. This type of suicide correlates a low integration into the society.  These types of individuals lack the internal control of one lf resulting in egoistical suicide. They are the most vulnerable and easy targets to fall down when the social current comes their way. They are not socially integrated or “not socially tied” to a community or a group.  Those who are unable to find their place in the society usually have difficulties in assimilating with other groups, and gain little social or no social support. As a result, people tend to commit suicide to rid themselves of this loneliness, or “excessive individuation.” For instance, Capitalism is the most victimized target in Egoistic suicide. In the 1940s’ the stock market crashed entrepreneurs and business owners fell on to their “knees.”  The Social current which is the social change of the environment became too strong for them to handle. Because there was no ties and everyone were interdependent from others, new social characters emerged.  The new character or characters that they developed during the social changed reflected their vulnerability as an individual. Vulnerability is a factor but social factors affect the vulnerability of an individual.


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