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SY203 Lesson 5.docx

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Darryl Burgwin

SY203 Lesson 5 Intro The major thrust of Durkheim's argument was that individuals take their own lives not because of what troubles them or the degree of their personal distress or misfortune. Rather, Durkheim's thesis is that people take their own lives because of social forces operating outside of them. First, by stating that social causes precede individual causes, Durkheim eliminates the need to look at the various forms suicide assumes in individuals. (ii) Second, in focusing his attention on the various social environments to which the individual is connected, Durkheim eliminated the necessity of looking at individual disposition or personality. The Social Suicide Rate Durkheim drew three fundamental conclusions which turn on the question of the stability of the suicide rates: (i) First, he reasoned that the stability of the rates was important because he was able to show that, while individual motives for suicide varies from case to case and from individual to individual, the regularity exhibited by the social rates for the society were consistently stable. (ii) Second, though the rates varied from society to society, the stability of the rates within a particular society over a period of time meant that that each society produces a 'quota of suicidal deaths'. (iii) Third, the stability of the rates within each of the societies meant certain social forces were operating to produce what Durkheim saw as the 'yearly precision of rates. Suicide and Integration Theory Social Integration: system of social links which attach individuals to social groups outside themselves Durkheim believed that integration served three basic functions: (i) First, it served to connect individuals to society by ensuring a high degree of attachment to commonly held values and beliefs; (ii) Second, social integration acts as a check against individualism by imposing restraints on needs and wants; (iii) Third, social integration serves connective functions so far as it propels individuals out into the wider social world The Theory of Suicide: The integrative Pole: Egoism- Altruism First, the integrative pole in which suicide results from changes in the level of social integration. This pole gives us two corresponding types: egoism and altruism. Egoism may be described as a state "where the individual ego asserts itself to excess in the face of the social ego, and at its expense."3 We can call the particular type of suicide that results from this excessive individualism, egoistic.4 Egoism may then be defined as an excessive degree of individualism in which the network of social obligation lying outside the individual is diminished and withdrawn to the individual ego. Under these circumstances, individual needs and wants become dominant over collective norms of society. What is important here, for Durkheim, is that egoism entails a breakdown in the social links tying individuals to society. Under these circumstances, egoism constituted athreat to society, to collective authority and to aggregate maintenance. Religion, Social Integration and Suicide Religion, says Durkheim, serves the function of social integration by linking the individual to persons and things outside themselves. Specifically, it does this by integrating various spheres of social life and by placing restrictions on the extent of indiv
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