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Emile Durkheims Study of Suicide (Book Review Sample)



Emile Durkheim is a French sociology scholar who studied the effect of the society on the individual and documented them so well in his book suicide: a study on sociology. He wrote extensively on the effect of society on an individual, to the point of subjecting to taking his own life.
The book was written based on statistical research and acquired knowledge of Durkheim’s work remains relevant today as it was during his time (1858-1917). He rose to prominence alongside other renowned sociologists of his time, Karl Marx and Max Weber and he is credited as the founding father of sociology.
His sociological views of which were many, sees society as a fusion of individuals thoughts which are not reducible to fragments of individualism. In other words society exists from individual thoughts. He thus developed a new methodology that society exist on elements of collective life of which are independent of each other and has the power of influencing an individual.
Durkheim’s went to great lengths to distinguish sociology from other disciplines especially philosophy. Consequently his influence on social sciences remains extensive as well as vague in terms of his relationship with philosophy but nevertheless stated that both disciplines (sociology and philosophy) are complementary.
Durkheim established principles in which the society guides individuals and shapes their thinking and often dictated the course of their actions. These include social integration, social stricture, and structural intergration of an individual into the society, civilization and societal expectations.
He attempted to solve every social problem based on a sociological approach. He believed that an individual is intricately woven into the social fabric that any form of rebellion and deviation from social norms had to have found me discrepancy in the mode of the social set up that the only way of extricating oneself could be through taking one’s life.
Durkheim’s moral theory is unique in that he rejects theorists who rely on a priori moral concepts or abstract logical reasoning to construct ethical systems. Rather, Durkheim treats moral phenomena as conditioned both socially and historically. Each society creates over time its own set of moral rules, which can vary dramatically from one society to the next, with each society creating for itself moral principles that are more or less adequate to its existential needs. When analyzing moral phenomena, the moral philosopher must take into consideration the socio-historical context of the moral system they are operating in and make moral prescriptions accordingly, or risk doing great harm to that society. However, that there exists no universal morality for humanity in no way abnegates the validity of any moral system and does not open the door to moral nihilism. On the contrary, moral rules are rooted in thesis generis reality of society that the individual cannot deny; morality is a social fact and should be studied as such. This approach to morality would form the basis of what Durkheim considers a physique des moeurs, or a physics of morality, a new, empirical, rational science of morality (Adapted from /durkheim)
The moral force or the society
Social integration is the bringing together of people in the society and making them feel like they belong to the social setting.
A strongly aligned social structure becomes a breeding ground for good morals. Durkheim "when society is strongly integrated, it holds individuals under its control, considers them at its service and thus forbids them to dispose willingly of themselves" (Suicide 209). The social currents of differing levels of "integration," Durkheim argues, affect changes in suicide rates. Suicide in this regard refers to morals or has been substituted for morals. Suicide in the society shows a breakdown of morals.
Social integration starts with the family. The interaction of the family members gives a sense of importance and the need of deviating from set standards of behavior is minimized and the individuals feels part of integral society.
There are methods which a society can integrate its members and make them as important as anyone else in the social setting:
1 Involvement of every member of the society in cultural activities and events
There are quite a number of cultural activities in the society that helps bring together. These include weddings, parties and get together. Each member is shown the importance of being the member of the society.
2 Music and dances
Entertainment is the most efficient way of bringing people together. Music provides a connection for the soul and provides harmony to the mind. In other words it provides a platform which reality and dreams can mingle at the same level.
3 Education
Schools bring together people of diverse cultures, diverse ideologies and social structures. This is where students exchange ideas, adopt ones they find favorable and help others be on the know of them.
4 Sports
Sports are by far the most loved thing by people. The spirit of competing and winning brings about good morals. Sports are discipline which sportsmen’s have to play by rules. The rules can be applied in real life for life too has unwritten rules called morals which successful individuals play by.
5 Church activities
As people come together for a common course it instills a sense oneness in the society. Individuals are made to know that they can’t exist on their own. To do so good morals are expected of them.
There are structures that bring about integration in the society. This include; education, family, political or leadership structures and religious. These bring a sense of leadership and guidance to the society and hence are tools of instilling good morals to people in a given social setting.
Importance of social integration
1 Unifying groups in the society.
It makes each group of people in the society more useful as any other. Social deviation is always brought by the need to be recognized by the members of the society. In the event that a group is sidelined it tends to apply unorthodox ways to gain recognition
2 Social organization
Durkheim argues that every individual is born into an organized society, with a set of established and recognized customs, belief, ideas and behavior. This type of organization teaches them the morals and way of behavior.
Laws and imposition of punishments, religion, politics, language, are the few aspects that determine the social organization a people. They often act upon an individual to adapt to the social behavioral expectation, regardless of internal belief
An individual grows and fits seamlessly into a social organization due to the existence of certain procedures carried out each and every day to the extent that they become a normalcy to the young members of the society. People have little or no ability to question why the society is run like it is because that would be seen a disrespect to the elders and the keepers of social history in the society. Thus, the society is seen as coercive or compulsive in developing morals to its members, which draws its members into acting as per the norms regardless of their internal beliefs. They just conform to them because they have a moral obligation to do so.
A society is organized into families. Members of the families help the people in the society to fit into the, oral standards by providing guidance which culminates in shaped morals to the family members. More so, people tend to follow what their family members do. This shows a sign of the power of the society to instill morals in the mind s o f people.
As part of the social organization there is the religion which people. This is where people are taught what to believe in, whether something is wrong or right and is often reinforced by religious doctrines. They help further the teachings and help the old members of the society in driving the moral compass of the society among the young.
Sometimes constraints arise from the social organization; form certain people who feel the need to conform too strenuous, owing to the collision with their own internal beliefs. As such the society enforces punishments to the individuals or is isolated from the social organization.
Durkheim explains vividly that the society is a shaper of morals. The society is made up of individuals with similar beliefs who collectively combine them to form a society with concrete beliefs. It thus teaches the people how to behave in the social setting and the individual is integrated into the society as he also forms part of the society.
The social organization of a people determines what morals they follow and how individuals cope with each. An individual who has grown without any rules is more or less a pervert and can’t fit into any social setting. He or she has loose morals and he only attract rebuke from the section of right thinking members of the society.
The social organization should be favorable to the development of marls to the society. The elder generation should be role models to the young by passing down the desired code of conduct to the young people who shall at one time be required to be of use to the society.
The social organization the present day does not favor the development and acquisition of good morals in the society as it was long ago. The advent technology has created a virtual world where all sort of evil is trade for the good morals that would otherwise be acquired from observing and being guided by the society. The internet is another world that glorifies ill behavior which the youth gladly emulate.
In the present world the society is too busy making money to f...
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