A N Assessment Of Durkheim — страница 2

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order and a state of anomie or normlessness seems to exist, but suicide of this type can also occur at times of great prosperity. Durkheim would have seen these example to be extreme, however, and concerned himself more with the gradual pathological increase in suicide rates due to modern society placing greater emphasis on individualism, and less importance on customs and traditions. Durkheim then, placed great importance in one single social factor – the internal cohesion and integration of the social group. The social law the Durkheim believed to exist and influence the acts of individuals is one of a causal nature, and he believed it to be that, “…suicide varies inversely with the degree of integration of the social groups of which the individual pays a part.”

However, these view on suicide are not without criticism, as many sociologists would claim that Durkheim, although placing great importance on the degree of integration with society, did not define this in a way that made it possible to measure integration. It has also been suggested by sociologists preferring more interpretive methodology, hat Durkheim’s use of official governmental statistics invalidates his study somewhat, as individuals are, after their deaths, according to Atkinson, labelled as suicides merely because of a set of pre-judgemental – and perhaps incorrect – assumptions made by coroners. Atkinson studied a number of coronary reports and found that four things were taken into account before labelling a death as a suicide: whether a note stating intent to

take one’s own life had been left; whether threats of suicide had been made prior to the death; the mode of death, and the biography of the individual. However, he says that these four considerations are not even universally applied by coroners, as different coroners place more emphasis on one factor than another. A further criticism made of Durkheim’s use of official statistics is that it has been suggested that the intention of a number of suicides is not to die, but a cry for help, or even an example of risk taking behaviour. Risk taking behaviour, according to Stengel, is when an individual does not know whether they want to live or die, and so attempts to leave his or her life in the hands of God, fate or luck, depending on belief. He based this theory on the two basic

observations that most suicidal acts are preceded by warnings and threats, and that most suicidal acts allow for intervention. If this is the case, then the official statistics that Durkheim used would not have been adequate measures of what they were supposed to measure, and therefore invalidate Durkheim’s work to a great extent. It is also important to consider when evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of Durkheim’s theory on suicide that suicides were more likely to be reported at that time when they occurred in cities and towns; and more likely to be reported as such in protestant countries rather than catholic countries, often because people would try to hide the real facts as suicide was perceived as shameful. This would mean that the statistics used by Durkheim in

developing his theories would be far from reliable. Durkheim’s decision to look at suicide as a social fact was also very controversial, as the majority of writers before him believed suicide to be one of the most individual acts that can be undertaken. Durkheim believed that in studying all acts of the individual, certain social influences could be found to cause behaviour. He came to this conclusion because he found that suicide rates remained constant over time, and because there seems to be no set event in life that serves as a pretext for someone to kill him or herself. Durkheim stated that, “One man kills himself in the midst of affluence, another in the lap of poverty; one was unhappy in his home, and another had just ended by divorce a marriage which was making him

unhappy. In one case a soldier ends his life after being punished for a crime he did not commit; in another, a criminal whose crime has gone unpunished.” Therefore the causes of suicide, concluded Durkheim, must have causes external to the individual. In his work on suicide, Durkheim is particularly critical of the work of Drobisch, who claims that the suicide rates remain constant because of there being an equal amount of, “…unhappy marriages, bankruptcies, disappointed ambitions, cases of poverty, etc.” as Durkheim believes that not all persons faced with situations such as this commit suicide, and therefore there must be an underlying social cause. He fails to explain, however, why in situations of social upheaval and change, some people commit suicide, while others do