Lecture 24 - Durkheim on Suicide

Foundations of Modern Social Theory

Yale

Durkheim's
Suicide
is a foundational text for the discipline of sociology, and, over a hundred years later, it remains influential in the study of suicide. Durkheim's study demonstrates that what is thought to be a highly individual act is actually socially patterned and has social, not only psychological, causes. Durkheim's study uses the logic of multivariate statistical analysis, which is now widely used in the discipline of sociology. Durkheim considered factors including country, marital status, religion, and education level to explain variations in suicide rates. Durkheim found that Protestants, who tended to be more highly educated, had a higher rate of suicide than Catholics, who tended to have lower levels of education. Jewish people fell outside of this pattern; highly educated, they had a very low rate of suicide. Durkheim explained that the education of Protestants led them to individual consciousness whereas the education of Jewish people meant to make them more integrated into their religious community. Durkheim arrives at a typology of suicide ranging between high and low regulation and high and low integration: egoistic, altruistic, anomic, and fatalistic suicide.

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