Sociology Durkheim On Suicide Sociology Essay

1644 words - 7 pages


Even nowadays the causal factors of suicide are not absolutely clear: it remains a complex phenomenon with no single cause being addressed as the major. Many factors both individual and social have been demonstrated to have certain correlation with self-destructive behaviour but up to now there is no clarity among the researchers about what factor can be addressed as the key determinant of suicidal behaviour. Representatives of several disciplines – namely, psychology, biology, and sociology – have proposed explanations for the causes of suicidal behaviour.

Adherents of biological approach are inclined to view biological and genetic factors as the major determinants of suicidal behaviour. Studies involving patients with suicidal twist have resulted in the assumption that the state of depression normally experienced by those who attempt to kill themselves is strongly linked to the level of serotonin (a substance found in nerve cells) in blood. The low level of serotonin in suicidal patients led the researches to a theory that low levels of this substance may be responsible for an individual’s inability to control his violent behaviour, which significantly increases his vulnerability for attempt of suicide (Fedorko, 1986).

Diverse psychological perspectives that attempt to explain the phenomenon of suicide seek the roots of suicidal behaviour in the realm of mental world. The psychoanalytic or Freudian approach postulates that the suicidal depression may reflect the feeling of guilt which produces the need for self-punishment. The cognitive theories that came forward in the recent years propose another explanation for suicidal behaviour. Aaron Beck, one of the first cognitivists, argued that people who suffered from suicidal depression draw illogical conclusions about themselves: “…they blame themselves for normal problems and consider every minor failure a catastrophe” (Fedorko, 1986: 373).

While both biological and psychological approaches tend to analyse individual determinants of suicidal behaviour, sociological approach takes a much broader perspective focusing upon social and situational factors. Adherents of this perspective seek for various characteristics of the structure and functioning of society and concrete environment that surrounds people who show suicidal tendencies (Haralambos and Holborn, 1995). Although this approach is more challenging – due to great diversity and alterability the social phenomena – than the previous two, it also seems to be the most perspective. Emile Durkheim undertook the pioneering effort to explain suicidal behaviour within the framework of the social relationships established between the individual and his/her environment.

Main Body

“La Suicide” is the third major work of Emile Durkheim, an outstanding French sociologist, of the 19th-20th century, and the first sociological research that establishes the traceable empiric connection between the phenomenon of individual...

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