Lecture 16

Lecture 16 - Emile Durkheim Suicide Some of Durkheim's...

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    Emile Durkheim Suicide 
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     Some of Durkheim’s ideas may sound a  bit old fashioned…. . “Woman’s sexual needs have less of a mental  character because, generally speaking, her  mental life is less developed.  These needs are  more closely related to the needs of the organism,  following rather than leading them, and  consequently find in them an efficient restraint.  Being a more instinctive creature than man,  woman has only to follow her instincts to find  calmness and peace.” (Suicide, p. 272)
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    However, there are great sociological  insights in his work Durkheim asserted that we can understand  people not by looking at the individual but by  looking at society. In Suicide , what is at first sight  an asocial act, a seemingly isolated act by an  individual which is NOT aimed at another  individual, is shown to depend on people’s  position in the social structure: whether one is rich  or poor, Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish, male or  female, determines this seemingly individualistic  and isolated fact.
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    The psychological perspective… “Since suicide is an individual action  affecting the individual only, it must  seemingly depend exclusively on individual  factors, thus belonging to psychology  alone. Is not the suicide’s resolve usually  explained by his temperament, character,  antecedents and private history?” (p. 46)
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    The sociological perspective “If, instead of seeing in them separate  occurrences, unrelated and to be separately  studied, the suicides committed in a given society  during a given period of time are taken as a  whole, it appears that this total is not simply a  sum of the independent units, a collective total,  but is itself a new fact  sui generis , with its own  unity, individuality and consequently its own  nature– a nature, furthermore, dominantly social.”  (p. 46)
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    Sociological facts… “At each moment of its history, therefore, each  society has a definite aptitude for suicide. The  relative intensity of this aptitude is measured  by  taking the proportion  between the total number of  voluntary deaths  and the population of every age  and sex. We will call this numerical datum the rate  of mortality through suicide, characteristic of the  society under consideration.  It is generally  calculated to a million or a hundred thousand  inhabitants.” 
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    Variation in the rate of suicide Durkheim noted that the rate of suicide varies in  time within an individual country only slightly, but  between countries the variations are immense E.g. 1860-1866 Italy had 30 suicides per million 
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This note was uploaded on 07/02/2008 for the course SOC 101 taught by Professor Mark during the Spring '08 term at UCLA.

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Lecture 16 - Emile Durkheim Suicide Some of Durkheim's...

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