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Sociology Research Paper Example: Emile Durkheim and His Theory of Suicide

3 pages
801 words
Carnegie Mellon University
Type of paper: 
Research paper
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Emile Durkheim is one of the key scholars whose impact on the development of sociology is immeasurable. Durkheim is ranked alongside Carl Marx and Weber as the founding fathers of university sociology (Durkheim, 2015). After the French Revolution and Prussian war of 1789 and 1870 respectively, Durkheim and other French sociologists like Comte who were born in the late 1850s took part in founding sociology to rebuild the disintegrated French society.

Durkheim is famous due to his work on sociology having written three books on sociology by the age of 40 years. His work includes "The Division of Labor in Society" where he demonstrated a comprehensive sociological approach that can promote openness on thorny issues within different classes of a total social phenomenon. Also, his second book on The Rules of Sociology Method contains insightful content for Sociology students. Finally, his most read book known as Suicide contain social facts on suicide that are ubiquitous in the contemporary world.

In this book (Suicide) published in 1897, Durkheim posits that most of the suicidal cases are influenced by economic and political upheavals. He argues that the act of an individual to commit suicide is also related to their religion (Doughlas & Jack D, 2015). Durkheim did a thorough analysis of Protestants and Catholics where he observed fewer cases of suicide in Catholics as compared to their Protestants counterparts. Following this observation, Durkheim theorized that Catholics had lower rates of suicide than Protestants because they have stronger forms of social control and much united than Protestants.

Furthermore, Durkheim observed that single people had higher rates of committing suicide as compared to those who are romantically partnered (Abu-Lughod R & Montoya E, 2016). Additionally, he found that military officers committed suicide at a higher frequency compared to civilians. Interestingly, he curiously realized that soldiers committed suicide mostly during peaceful moments than when they are in a war. Based on his observation, Durkheim claimed that the cause of suicide is not solely dependent on personal psychological factors, it is also much dependent on social factors. He explained the cases of soldiers committing suicide mostly during peaceful time than during war as a reason why he thinks people tend to commit suicide when they lose social integration and deem themselves of no social impact.

Durkheim's observation made him develop a theoretical typology of suicide that enabled him to discuss how unique social factors can result in suicide. He splits his typology into two pairs; the first pair is known as the degree integration in a group (this pair consists of altruism and egoism suicides) and the second pair referred to as the degree of moral regulation (made up of anomie suicide and fatalism suicide).

Altruistic suicide as Durkheim explains is where individuals will choose to kill themselves to achieve a collective goal as a group (Durkheim, 2015). Durkheim observed that this type of suicide is caused by too much integration into the group. He argues that when here are group forces acting on an individual, that person lacks the sense of individuality making them commit suicide.

Egoistic suicide is the second type of suicide discussed in Durkheims book of Suicide. Durkheim posits that this type of suicide occurs at the lower end of integration continuum. When people retire from their jobs or lose family members, they consequently lose the ties and bonds that connect them. This factor is most likely to lead them to egoistic suicide.

The third type of suicide as explained by Durkheim is fatalistic suicide (Doughlas & Jack D, 2015). At the end of the social regulation continuum, people may undergo various suffering as a result of prevailing oppressive circumstances. Due to this, individuals may choose to die instead of going through such hard times. Durkheim describes fatalistic suicide as a suicide "of people with futures pitilessly blocked."

Finally, Durkheim explains the fourth type of suicide called anomic suicide. This type of suicide occurs in low regulation continuum end (James, 2012). It is rooted in economic anomie which Durkheim identifies as "acute" or "chronic" economic anomie. Anomic suicide is associated with intolerable economic and economic upheavals that lead to social disintegration making individuals feel disconnected from the society thus committing suicide (Abu-Lughod R & Montoya E, 2016).

In conclusion, Emile Durkheim stands out as one of the great scholars in sociology studies with his unparalleled contribution to modern day sociology. His book on "Suicide" and the theories developed in it are of explains most of the suicidal cases in the contemporary world.



Abu-Lughod R & Montoya E. (2016). Altruisic and Anomic Suicide: A Durkheimian analysis of Palestinian Suicide Bpmbers. J.Pol. & L, 9-30.

Doughlas & Jack D. (2015). Social Meaning of suicide . Princeton University Press.

Durkheim, E. (2015). The Division of Labour in Society. Simon and Schuster.

James, G. (2012). Suicide in the army national guard: an empirical inquiry. Suicide and Life behavior, 104-119.


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