Durkheim and Suicide- Post #3

Today’s lecture had me thinking all afternoon. I found it really interesting that Durkheim had such strong theories related to suicide. I have to say that I both agree and disagree with his ideas. Being that I am a psychology major, I think I have a strong bias against theories that argue a certain phenomena is not really a result of one’s mental health. However, after conceptualizing Durkheim’s theory I understand his sociological analysis of suicide, but I do not think that he was necessarily correct in almost shunning psychological aspects of suicide. Further, I had some thoughts regarding Durkheim’s interpretation of the anomie theory in relation to suicide.

Suicide is a very interpersonal action. I think that those who attempt or go through with suicide have an internal conflict which can be influenced by events or occurrences in society. I disagree in that social events can directly lead one to commit suicide. I believe there has to be underlying issues or conflicts that an individual deals with that contributes to their decision to attempt suicide. As Professor Hala mentioned in class, the economic crisis was almost the tip of the ice berg for many men’s emotional states which, in turn, increased the likelihood they would go through with suicide. Perhaps these men already felt a sense of pressure, depression or concern about making ends meet in order to support themselves or their families; then following the downfall of our economy, they may have felt completely defeated and that there was no other way out. Shifting gears and thinking about suicide internationally or cross culturally, I think that social facts and the way in which individuals relate to their society or culture play a role in suicide statistics. However, I do still contest to my belief that there is a psychological factor that plays a role in a carried out suicide attempts.

Robert Merton (1940) expanded on Durkheim’s theory of anomie by discussing five adaptations of strain. Durkheim’s theory of anomie discusses the break down of cultural norms due to rapid change. This is related back to suicide in that individuals are more likely to commit suicide in times of rapid or sudden economic decrease or prosperity. Merton proposed five modes or adaptations to strain that members of society fell into if they could not achieve goals, if you will. Conformity, innovation, rebellion, ritualism and retreatism are the modes of adaptation (I have provided a link below which describes each mode of adaptation in detail). Typically these modes of adaptation are used to understand deviance among societies, but sociologically thinking, I would consider suicide to be an act of deviance, because it essentially goes against social norms. While reading about Durkheim’s theories on suicide, I was surprised not to see any mention of Merton’s expansion as I believe they would support Durkheim’s ideology and supported his idea that social factors influence suicide.

Durkheim provides a very thought-provoking take on suicide. I would have never thought of suicide on a macro level in the way he did. I believe that suicide is very individualistic BUT individuals are easily influenced by social events which can reinforce their suicidal thoughts or tendencies.




3 responses to “Durkheim and Suicide- Post #3

  1. I agree, Amanda. I think that though Durkheim has very interesting theories on suicide regarding anomie and egoism, he is putting himself at risk of not fully understanding the phenomena of suicide by excluding psychological factors. I think that suicide is an individualistic decision. Everyone is exposed to the same problems and social events but not everyone’s reaction to those things is suicide.

  2. I was going to do a post exactly like this one, and then realized you said it so perfectly. I completely agree with both Amanda and Shannon. If suicide was purely based on social reasons, then I think everyone affected would be performing the act. Durkheim was right when he said social factors influence suicide, however personal ones do two. When both personal and social factors collide, the risk of committing suicide is much higher. For example, bullying, many young adults are bullied or pressured into things. However, there are some that can’t mentally handle the effect of bullying and thus commit suicide. Others on the other hand are able to move ahead from the hardship.

  3. Interesting perspective from a psychology major. I find it very interesting about what you said on how people with suicidal thoughts normally have internal conflicts within themselves, but that the conflicts are brought about from society. The society we live in today shapes and molds many of our thinking patterns without people realizing. Endless amounts of marketing ads brainwash and have subliminal effects on individuals who are bombarded with visual stimulants. It tells us what we are to become and what is desirable and if you do not fit into this system, you second guess yourself as a human being. Perhaps when the world becomes more accepting and less superficial, suicide will be a lesser issue plaguing individuals.

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