Friday, January 18

Émile Durkheim' Four types of suicide



I was discussing somewhere about suicide and someone said that "Only mentally ills commit suicide." which is a strange argument for me.
To my surprised when we search for suicide the psychiatric bible is the definition that is everywhere. I also searched in French and Portuguese and the articles are all the same.
The American Psychiatric Association - APA - is responsible for the definition of suicide.

Those Indian farmers, nearly 200.000, Vandana Shiva reported that committed suicide due to the "policies of trade liberalization and corporate globalization" will have to find a label.
I did read some articles and found a lot of problems and confusion when  the biological explanation for suicide is the only posibility.

But I remembered about Emile Durkheim and his study about suicide that I did read a long time ago.
Published in 1897, more than a century ago, The Suicide is still being printed in numerous languages.

The Four types of Suicide
1. Egoistic Suicide. This is the type of suicide that occurs where the degree of social integration is low, and there is a sense of meaningless among individuals. In traditional societies, with mechanical solidarity, this is not likely to be the cause of suicide. There the strong collective consciousness gives people a broad sense of meaning to their lives. Within modern society, the weaker collective consciousness means that people may not see the same meaning in their lives, and unrestrained pursuit of individual interests may lead to strong dissatisfaction. One of the results of this can be suicide. Individuals who are strongly integrated into a family structure, a religious group, or some other type of integrative group are less likely to encounter these problems, and that explains the lower suicide rates among them.

The factors leading to egoistic suicide can be social currents such as depression and disillusionment. For Durkheim, these are social forces or social facts, even though it is the depressed or melancholy individual who takes his or her life voluntarily. "Actors are never free of the force of the collectivity: 'However individualized a man may be, there is always something collective remaining – the very depression and melancholy resulting from this same exaggerated individualism.'" Also, on p. 214 of Suicide, Durkheim says "Thence are formed currents of depression and disillusionment emanating from no particular individual but expressing society's state of disillusionment." Durkheim notes that "the bond attaching man to life relaxes because that attaching him to society is itself slack. ... The individual yields to the slightest shock of circumstance because the state of society has made him a ready prey to suicide." (Suicide, pp. 214-215).

2. Altruistic Suicide. This is the type of suicide that occurs when integration is too great, the collective consciousness too strong, and the "individual is forced into committing suicide." (Ritzer, p. 91). Integration may not be the direct cause of suicide here, but the social currents that go along with this very high degree of integration can lead to this. The followers of Jim Jones of the People’s Temple or the members of the Solar Temple are an example of this, as are ritual suicides in Japan. Ritzer notes that some may "feel it is their duty" to commit suicide. (p. 91). Examples in primitive society cited by Durkheim are suicides of those who are old and sick, suicides of women following the death of their husband, and suicides of followers after the death of a chief. According to Durkheim this type of suicide may actually "springs from hope, for it depends on the belief in beautiful perspectives beyond this life."

3. Anomic Suicide. Anomie or anomy come from the Greek meaning lawlessness. Nomos means usage, custom, or law and nemein means to distribute. Anomy thus is social instability resulting from breakdown of standards and values

This is a type of suicide related to too low a degree of regulation, or external constraint on people. As with the anomic division of labour, this can occur when the normal form of the division of labour is disrupted, and "the collectivity is temporarily incapable of exercising its authority over individuals." (Ritzer, p. 92). This can occur either during periods associated with economic depression (stock market crash of the 1930s) or over-rapid economic expansion. New situations with few norms, the regulative effect of structures is weakened, and the individual may feel rootless. In this situation, an individual may be subject to anomic social currents.

4. Fatalistic Suicide. When regulation is too strong, Durkheim considers the possibility that "persons with futures pitilessly blocked and passions violently choked by oppressive discipline" may see no way out. The individual sees no possible manner in which their lives can be improved, and when in a state of melancholy, may be subject to social currents of fatalistic suicide. (read this good review here)

I don't think that this is the explanation that must be used for everything. The big problem is having only one branch of human  sciences  explaining everything related to human beings and this is what is being done for two decades. The consequences are evil.


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