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History and Social Theory

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1 History and Social Theory
Emile Durkheim : Anomic Suicide (Book 2 – Chapter 5 “Suicide: A study in Sociology”)

2 What is “Anomie” ? Oxford English dictionary Definition : “lack of the usual social or moral standards” OR a breakdown or absence of social norms and values that had once been present. This is what D is suggesting can lead to raised levels of suicide amongst a population.

3 Definition of Anomic Suicide
1. Man as a species is plagued by infinite and unlimited desires. Desires which can never be truly satisfied as “the more one has, the more one wants”(Emile Durkheim,1968 :248) Therefore man needs these passions to be limited for him in some way. 2. Since physical restraint would have no effect on a persons thought process D posited that this restraint must come from an “authority which they respect (and) to which they yield spontaneously”. (Emile Durkheim,1968 :249) – SOCIETY - under the collective pressure of each society an individual is made vaguely aware of “the extreme limit set to his ambitions and aspires to nothing beyond it” (Emile Durkheim,1968 :250)

4 3. However, if a society is disturbed by some kind of crisis or transition, then that society would be “momentarily incapable of exercising ..(its) influence” (Emile Durkheim,1968:252) therefore individuals want something more than they could achieve and as a result the level of suicide is increased. 4. Although Durkheim uses primarily the examples of the economy, or marriage to illustrate his points. He believed that any part of society where anomie was present would create the same result, as anomie itself had become normalised into modern societies.

5 Durkheim's 4 types of suicide
(1)Anomic Suicide - the result of a societies inability to regulate its individuals desires, leading them to feel great unhappiness which increases the rates of suicide within that society. (2) Fatalistic suicide - (briefly mentioned in the chapter on Anomie) an individual is so completely caught up in the oppressive discipline of that society that they see no hope of changing their situation, therefore their only release from this state is to commit suicide.

6 (3)Egoistic suicide - the result of a state in which its members interests values and beliefs were so different to one another's, that individuals were only weakly tied together. Leading them to loose the benefits of group life, such as “support and revitalisation” (Kenneth Thompson, 1982: 110) which lead some individuals to take their own life. (4) Altruistic suicide - a state where suicide occurred as the result of too much integration. - According to Thompson “the individual absorbed and controlled by the group had an under developed and so undervalued sense of individuality”(Kenneth Thompson, 1982: 111) This type of person couldn't resist the pressure to sacrifice themselves according to the groups interest.

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