Sociology and Suicide

3277 Words14 Pages
‘’How has Sociology contributed to our understanding of ‘Suicide’”? Introduction The essay will attempt to evaluate and assess how the various theoretical perspectives within sociology have contributed to our understanding of the deviant, individual act of ‘suicide’. This will be achieved by defining and evaluating ‘functionalism’, a ‘macro perspective’ and the application of this functionalistic approach formulated by Emile Durkheim, to the social phenomenon of ‘suicide’. Criticisms in relation to Durkheims’s study will also be evaluated, drawing upon other ‘Positivist’ theories and contrasting, ‘Interpretive’ theories of ‘suicide’, such as ‘Symbolic Interactionism’, a ‘micro perspective’; who’s principles were originally formulated…show more content…
Suicide is regarded as the most common of individual actions, which Durkheim believed was influenced by the ‘social collective’ and not as a result of psychological causalities as other studies had tried to imply. In an attempt to disprove the psychological hypothesis, he sought evidence that would identify the social nature of suicide. This was facilitated through the availability of suicide-rate statistical data collated from a variety of societies located within European countries. From this quantitative research, now termed ‘multivariate analysis’, he devised three conclusions. Within single societies the incidence or rate of suicide remains constant over time, the suicide rate varies between societies and that the suicide rate varies between different groups within the same society. However, “Durkheim did not deny that particular circumstances would lead to a particular person taking his or her own life, but personal reasons could not account for the suicide rate” (Haralambos et al, 1995, pp819:2). In an endeavour to refute the claim that there was a relationship between the incidents of insanity and the suicide rate, he examined data compiled from members of the Jewish community who had reportedly higher rate of insanity than other religious groups. On conclusion, he found that they had considerable lower rates of suicide (Durkheim, 1952: 166-168). He discovered that a collective tendency or social force, beyond the
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