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How successful was Durkheim in using the "Scientific method". In hindsight would you have conducted research on suicide in a different way?

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Introduction

How successful was Durkheim in using the "Scientific method". In hindsight would you have conducted research on suicide in a different way? In this essay I will discuss some of the approaches to the study of suicide and its social causes described by Durkheim. I will then present a few alternative theories or critiques of Durkheim; and finally conclude with a Personal reflection on Durkheim`s analysis. Durkheim believed that society is a part of nature, and a science of society has to be based upon the same logical principles as those which obtain in natural science. Therefore Durkheim set out to prove that sociology was a science by applying his theory to the study of suicide. The study of suicide is seen as particularly important because it illustrates the wider theoretical and methodological debates in sociology. The study of suicide, by Durkheim was based on using statistics from several countries and looked for causes of suicide. This illustrates the positive approach. Later studies such as those by Atkinson and Douglas use interpretative and phenomenological approaches, which question the value of statistics and the idea of causes and try instead to understand how meanings are attached to actions. ...read more.

Middle

(O'Donnell, Page 315) Gibbs and Martin (1964) argued that, since Durkheim gave no clear definition of social integration, it was not possible to operationalise this idea. As an alternative, they proposed using the idea of 'status integration', in order to measure the extent to which an individual's different social statuses overlapped. The less the overlap between an individual's different statuses, the greater the likelihood of role conflict and, in this respect, there was less likelihood of support for an individual in times of social crisis/social dislocation. As an example of this idea, a man who has been married for a number of years before his wife suddenly dies is also confronted by a social crisis. His life may appear to lose it's meaning and the norms by which he has lived his life over a number of years suddenly become almost irrelevant and mundane. In this situation, such a person could be seen as being 'at risk' of committing suicide due to the anomic changes. For Gibbs and Martin, the greater the level of social support he is able to get from his other statuses in life he less he is to actually commit suicide. ...read more.

Conclusion

Some people do not want to die - they may be making a cry of help - while others gamble with their lives, taking a considerable risk but not knowing whether they mean to die or not (Taylor calls this 'Parasuicide'). The study of suicide then needs to be expanded to include risk taking, and understanding this requires looking at both meanings to individuals and the wider social structure. Taylor has also been associated with the argument that Durkheim's work, in seeing underlying forces guiding but not determining individual behaviour, is in fact more realist than positivist. The theoretical methodological issues raised by Durkheim's pioneering work remain unresolved. In conclusion, the research undertook by Durkheim was statistical and taken at face value he did not explore the reasons why suicide had taken place although he discussed some social factors his viewpoint may be seen to be bias. This view could be taken because Durkheim himself was a Catholic when he was discussing the role of values and morality within Catholicism as being superior. On the other hand Durkheim's approach has been useful in that other sociologists can learn from his methodology and the drawbacks in it. ...read more.

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