Suicide: A Study in Sociology
Durkheim has presented a different perspective of suicide. To him as suicide is a social action its root cause lies in the social disorganization. Thus the suicide cannot be viewed as an individual action or a personal decision. It is caused by some power, which is over and above human control. Thus it is super individual in nature. As suicide is the manifestation of complex social conditions, the diagnosis of suicide must take into account the factors that are definitely sociological in origin.
Penned by one of the founders of modern sociology, this classic puts forth the view that suicide stems from a lack of integration of an individual into society. Suicide provides readers with an understanding of the impetus for suicide and its psychological impact on the victim, family, and society.
According to Durkheim man is under constant influence of physical /ecological factors .He is positively or negatively influenced by these factors and committee suicide. Durkheim's perspective to suicide was not geographical or hereditary in nature. This social action is due to lack of resource availability. this makes a man unhappy as his basic requirements are not fulfilled .At this point of time the seeds of suicide germinates .
Durkheim reasoned that while suicide occurs in all societies, the suicide rate for various groups are often both different than other groups within the same society and stable over time. These differences and stability in group rates indicated that there was something other than psychology involved in the decision to commit suicide. Why do rates differ between age groups within the same society? It is simply impossible, Durkheim insisted, to explain or interpret the characteristics and behaviors of human groups on a psychological or biological basis. Much of who and what we are, of how we behave and what we believe, is due to social forces.
With lack of social and group support to the cause of suffering of a common person, the frustration of unachieved goal begins to haunt the individual persona. This leads to commit suicide. Increasing necessity, degeneration of social values, lack of exercises of moral control is few important factors responsible for increasing suicide rates of world. The other factors are, lack of social solidarity, lack of strong socio religious condition and political stability are note worthy. However to Durkheim "The factors for the suicide rate in which he is interested are then to be found in feature of social milieu.
As per Durkheim Suicide can be categorised into its three sub types namely: Egoistic suicide, Anomic suicide & Altruistic suicide.
Egoistic suicide: This resulted from very less integration of individuals and the society they lived in. Those individuals who were not sufficiently bound to social groups (and therefore well-defined values, traditions, norms, and goals) were left with little social support or guidance, and thus tended to commit suicide on an increased basis.
When a man becomes socially isolated or feels that he has no place in the society, he destroys himself. Usually those persons, who are concerned with their interests only and have nothing to do with other members of the society, commit this type of suicide. An example Durkheim discovered was that of unmarried people, particularly males, who, with less to bind and connect them to stable social norms and goals, committed suicide at higher rates than married people.
Anomic suicide: This was a result of a complete breakdown of a system/regulated environment rather like the literal meaning of the word Anomie that is lack of regulation coupled with a breakdown of norms.Durkheim defined the term anomie as a condition where social and/or moral norms are confused, unclear, or simply not present. This is the result of external and unaccepting circumtances which cause extreme frustration to a person. The man being unable to cope with pressure that crops up suddenly commits suicide and lack of social control is the key factor for such drastic step. Durkheim felt that this lack of norms--or pre-accepted limits on behavior in a society--led to deviant suicidal behavior.
Altruistic suicide: This type of suicide is somewhat different from the other two types. In this type, man commits suicide knowing that his death would benefit a group or entire nation or of a social cause. This shows the dominance of collective responsibility and group interest over narrow personal goals. This is a value-oriented suicide. . It occurred at the opposite end of the integration scale as egoistic suicide. Self sacrifice was the defining trait, where individuals were so integrated into social groups that they lost sight of their individuality and became willing to sacrifice themselves to the group's interests, even if that sacrifice was their own life. The suicide theory of Durkheim is criticized on the ground that it over emphasizes the role of social control and neglects the geographical and hereditary factors. Though Durkheim agrees that suicide is dynamic in nature and the rate varies from country to country and sex to sex, but the reason of such variance is never sought after. It is merely a social action, which is influenced by personal factors and triggered by social disorganization. This was a result of too much integration between the society and individuals. The most common cases of altruistic suicide occurred among members of the military.