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The External Critique - The External Critique The...

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The External Critique. The Interactionist critique of both Durkheim and positivist conceptions of suicide in general by writers such as: Jack Douglas ("The Social Meaning of Suicide", 1967) and J. Maxwell Atkinson ("Discovering Suicide", 1968), not only enables us to demonstrate an "alternative" interpretation of suicidal behaviour but most importantly, it also helps us to come to terms with Interpretivist methodology. Both Douglas and Atkinson begin with the argument that the sources of individual behaviour (social action) are not somehow "external" to the individual: Social "reality" is constructed consciously and actively by people who mean to do certain things (even though their intentions are not always fulfilled) and who attribute meanings to the behaviour of others. In this respect, the social world is experienced subjectively - it is effectively constructed and reconstructed on a daily basis. The social world, therefore, can be defined as an "elaborate conspiracy" between social actors who behave in ways that suggest - both to themselves and others - that the social world has some kind of meaningful existence. In this respect, Douglas , for example, criticises Durkheim on the basis that Durkheim does not , as he claims, " Explain social facts by reference to other social facts ". On the contrary, what Durkheim does, according to Douglas is to impose a conceptual meaning (his own) upon the behaviour of others in a way that is unjustified, untested and untestable. The argument, in this respect, is that when Durkheim looked at the social world, his theoretical perspective (ideas about the social world) led him to the belief / assumption that we could define certain "social facts" about the world. Other
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