Blog 3 Emile Durkheim Criminality and Suicide Rates

The majority of Emile Durkheim’s work reflected on how societies adapt to modernity through social integration such as a common language and adopting certain morals. An issue that affects all different societies throughout history is crime.  It’s normal in any healthy society to have crimes committed, it’s inevitable they will occur since no society is perfect . Over time crime rates tend to fluctuate in societies based on economic and political factors. Also certain demographics also affect crime rates. Durkheim states “crime is normal because a society exempt from it is utterly impossible.” The idea of what we think is morally unacceptable in our society today has also been modernized. On page 119, Durkheim used the example of how Socrates was considered a criminal in his time by Athenian law, due to his independent way of thinking which was seen as radical during this time. It makes you think of what will be socially acceptable in the next 100 years.

In A Study in Sociology, Durkheim  examines how suicide is not a psychological based individual act and how social conditions can influence suicide rates.  Most people would think that the highest suicide rates would be among societies that also has high rates of alcoholism and mental illness and that is just not the case. He theorized three types of suicide: egoistic,altruistic, and anomic. In egoistic suicide, an individual is detached from society. They don’t feel included and feel inadequate since they don’t understand where they fit in.  Altruistic suicide is when an individual ends their own life due to a higher power. An example would be a suicide bomber  who feels that he has to sacrifice his  life to preserve ” their sacred way of life for the group as a whole.” (pg.122) The last type of suicide is anomic, which is when a society is experiencing change such as a financial crisis (bad) or even something good like expansionism. An individual doesn’t know how to react to these changes to society and how greatly it can affect them. I agree with Durkheim’s theory of suicide and the different types since during the financial crisis that began in 2008 that our society is still recovering from it definitely has had an impact on suicide rates. Almost every time you read the newspaper there is always an article on suicide bombers, where troops are stationed. Even though Durkheim wrote about this in the late 1890’s, it still is relevant in our society today.

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2 responses to “Blog 3 Emile Durkheim Criminality and Suicide Rates

  1. We are living in a society where everything is uncertain. We can not eliminate sucide rates 100 percent but we can try to do our part in decreasing the number as a whole.During the economic downfall in 2008 we experienced a great deal of suicidal rates,since then we have gotten a little better as a society.

  2. Excellent presentation and nuanced analysis of Durkheim’s concepts. Your observation about the historicity or relativity of deviance — as exemplified by the case of Socrates — is critical. What behaviors are criminalized changes over time. Yet, as you note, there will always be a certain amount of crime — not because no society is “perfect” but because there simply is no such thing as society unless you define what is anti-social, or criminal. By calling out certain actors as criminal, Durkheim argues that we establish the boundaries of membership in a “society.”

    It’s true that we’ve been seeing a lot of news coverage of suicides — but that doesn’t necessarily indicate they are up. I want to see if I can dig up some recent stats so we can confirm the actual trends.

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