Sociology 1020 Chapter Notes - Chapter 1: Altruistic Suicide, Auguste Comte, Social Fact

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13 Nov 2012
Department
Professor
Zaid Al-Atawneh
Sociology
Sept/9/12
Chapter 1: What is Sociology?
Major concern of sociology us to explain why members of some groups behave
differently than members of other groups
Emile Durkheim
Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) investigated suicide
Many of Durkheim’s contemporaries thought that mental illness, inherited tendencies, or
unhappiness were the causes of suicide
Durkheim argued that social factors-factors pertaining either to group structure or to the
relationships among individuals in groups-also affect suicide
Durkheim called these social sources of behaviour social facts
Social Facts: point to social or group-level explanations of behaviour, such as ethnicity,
gender, place of residence, and marital status
In Durkheim’s study of nineteenth century suicide, he uncovered variations that pointed
to social causes of suicide: men had higher suicide rates than women, Protestants higher
rates than Catholics and Jews, older people higher rates than the young, and single people
higher rates than the married (1951).
Greater frequency in men, protestants, the older, and the unmarried as due in part, to the
relative social isolation they experienced
Durkheim called the suicides that occur because of the lack of such social ties, egoistic
suicides
Excessively strong social ties can also lead to higher suicide rates, this kind of suicide,
called altruistic suicide, is exemplified by suicide bombers
Anomicsuicides are found in societies marked by insufficient regulations, a condition that
might arise in times of extensive or rapid social change. In Anomic societies individuals
experience feelings of unpredictability or being without limits, and are thus prone to
suicide
Fatalistic suicides occur in societies having too many rules and too few options.
Individuals may feel trapped, with suicide as the only way out
Ties of social groups, is a social and not an individual variable
In Durkheim’s explanation he demonstrated how social conditions affect human
behaviour
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Social environments, which may be different in different groups, cannot be ignored.
Suicide rates will always be different because of the difference of groups and social
environments
Sociology: Its Modern Origins and Varieties
The French and Industrial Revolutions kindled its modern development, but sociology
did exist prior to the eighteenth century
French Revolution expanded the potential for democracy
Industrial Revolution led to a new economy, the further growth of trade and cities, and a
radically new organization of work
Science of and scientific explanations, products of the Enlightenment, were increasingly
supplanting religion and theological explanations of natural phenomena
Earlier explanations were rooted in religious dogma based on authority and faith,
scientific explanations were based on observation and reason
Since science was developing, people were hoping that society would develop as well
Auguste Comte (1798-1857) saw sociology as both religion and a science
Sociologists were “priests” who would guide societies through turbulent times and heal
their social problems
Because of the ills that came form the French and Industrial Revolutions, it allowed new
discipline to happen because the world needed new order and because of this sociology
was born as a modern science
Durkheim believed that society is based on consensus and cooperation
Modern society is structured like a human body: a collection of organs, each performing
a necessary function. Segments of society, the organs, work for the benefit of society as a
whole, the body, and, hence, that social ills are temporary phenomena curable by
appropriate “medicines” and “repairs”.
Karl Marx
Karl Marx (1818-1883)
He rejected this analogy and saw society as made up of individuals and groups held
together by the strongest members, who use their power to coerce the weaker members
into submission
Social ills are chronic and are built into the structure of society
Cures can only come from radical social change
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Document Summary

Major concern of sociology us to explain why members of some groups behave differently than members of other groups. Many of durkheim"s contemporaries thought that mental illness, inherited tendencies, or unhappiness were the causes of suicide. Durkheim argued that social factors-factors pertaining either to group structure or to the relationships among individuals in groups-also affect suicide. Durkheim called these social sources of behaviour social facts. Social facts: point to social or group-level explanations of behaviour, such as ethnicity, gender, place of residence, and marital status. Greater frequency in men, protestants, the older, and the unmarried as due in part, to the relative social isolation they experienced. Durkheim called the suicides that occur because of the lack of such social ties, egoistic suicides. Excessively strong social ties can also lead to higher suicide rates, this kind of suicide, called altruistic suicide, is exemplified by suicide bombers.

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