basic philosophical position can be summarised as follows:
1. Society is made-up of individuals.
2. However, it is something more than the simple sum of these individuals,
since people form social relationships that involve rights, routines,
responsibilities and so forth.
3. Society is not reducible to individual motivations, behaviours and so forth
People are born into societies that have a structure of: Rules,
Relationships, Norms, Values and so forth.
4. People's behaviour is shaped, in some way, by the above factors. In effect,
behavioural forms are subject to certain constraints that arise from the nature
of the social relationships which they form.
Durkheim argues that if we can understand the
individual behaviour, we can effectively study the causes of that behaviour.
Outline some of the implications this might have for the scientific study of
“Suicide”: A Classic Sociological Analysis
In the following, I intend to do two things:
Firstly, to look at the way in which Durkheim argued that we should be
concerned to understand suicide as a social phenomenon. This will include
an outline of the different types of suicide that Durkheim elaborated in his
Secondly, to look in more detail at the logic of Durkheim's analysis - to
understand the way in which he constructed his sociological study of
suicide (Durkheim's methodology).
Durkheim's study of suicide was, and remains, an important example of the
way in which sociological knowledge and methodological principles can be
used to challenge commonly-accepted or "taken-for-granted" ideas about the
nature of the social world. As he argued:
"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
..If, instead of seeing in them [that is, suicides] only 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 independent units,
a collective total, but is itself a new fact sui generis [that is, unique in
some way], with its own unity, individuality and consequently its own
nature - a nature, furthermore, dominantly social."