DurkSui - 1 Some Comments on Durkheims Suicide Emile...

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1 Some Comments on Durkheim’s Suicide Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) was a French scholar who was at the forefront of the development of sociology as an academic discipline. He received his baccalaureate in letters and science and later undertook training in France’s most prestigious teaching academy—the Ecole Normale Superieure. In 1882 he was hired to teach at the Faculty of Letters in Bordeaux, where he taught a class on “social science and pedagogy.” This was the first time that sociology took its place as an intellectual discipline along side subjects like history, philosophy and economics. In 1909, Durkheim was invited to teach at the Sorbonne, where his class on sociology and education became a graduation requirement for future teachers. Thus, while sociology as an academic discipline has largely remained peripheral to American education, the early imprimatur of France’s most respected university allowed generations of French students and teachers access to the “sociological imagination.” Durkheim came from a rabbinical family (i.e., his father was a rabbi, as was his grandfather, great-grandfather, etc.) and as a teenager he considered pursuing rabbinical training. Durkheim, however, chose a more secular education, but—as we shall see from our brief examination of his writings—his would retain lifelong interest in morality and religion and in the relationship between morality and society. While Durkheim wrote on many subjects (e.g., sociological methods), we will focus on two examples of his work— Suicide (1897) and The Division of Labor in Society (1893). The first two readings (on egoistic suicide and anomic suicide) are excerpts taken from Durkheim’s manuscript Suicide . Suicide was a work of paramount sociological significance. The book made a bold attempt to illustrate the influence of social forces on an action (suicide) that is usually considered the most psychologically motivated—and thus the most individualistic —of behaviors. Suicide was also a showcase for his belief in “social facts.” Durkheim believed that societies could be studied empirically through the collection of data (or “social facts”). The verity or existence of social facts could be independently corroborated by other researchers. Thus, Suicide —in addition to demonstrating the power of social forces over individual actions— illustrated how “scientific” principles and methodologies could be applied to the study of social problems. Durkheim found quantitative (number-based) differences in suicide rates in different countries and among different social groups. In his search to find some common, socially- generated causes of suicide, Durkheim proposed that suicide rates were related to two major social forces—social integration and moral regulation. He then created three categories of suicide related to these two principles. Durkheim argued that the first category of suicide—what he called “egoistic suicide”—
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This note was uploaded on 02/14/2011 for the course SOCIOL 3ac taught by Professor Kelsey during the Spring '11 term at Berkeley.

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DurkSui - 1 Some Comments on Durkheims Suicide Emile...

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