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"Some studies maybe more recent, but Durkheim's work remains the most significant Sociological analysis of Suicide in modern societies"Assess the extent to which Sociological arguments and evidence support this claim.

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Introduction

Jennifer Anderson "Some studies maybe more recent, but Durkheim's work remains the most significant Sociological analysis of Suicide in modern societies" Assess the extent to which Sociological arguments and evidence support this claim. In regards to Suicide it would seem perhaps more realistic to consider the subject as an individual and personal act, a job which might seem more suitable for Psychologists to explain, it may not seem an obvious subject for a Sociologist to study. In the past it has been more commonly thought that Suicide was a result of a person's mental state, however suicide was given an all new perspective once Durkheim in 1897 used Positivist methods to study the subject. Durkheim chose this subject in attempts to illustrate the potential of society to help understand complex social processes. Since this time other Socioligists have followed in Durkheim's footsteps in the study of suicide but it is questionable whether or not other Socioligists have made quite an impact as he did. In Durkheim's work 'Suicide: A study in Sociology' he used statistics from varying European countries to compare the suicide rate, Durkheim referred to these statistics as 'Social Facts'. He found consistency in the suicide rate in particular societies in particular times, thus making him sure that the statistics could be used as strong evidence in which to find trends and patterns. ...read more.

Middle

In order for a suicide to be put into the statistics relies on a coroner ruling a death as a suicide, but individual coroners may work in different ways and despite evidence pointing to suicide doesnt necessarily mean a coroner will rule that way. So therefore not all suicides will make it into the statistics thus making the statistics unreliable. As an Interpretevist Douglas took into account individual's possible motives for suicide, he saw it that not all of those that commited suicide neccessarily intended to die and there are other cases where a genuinely suicidal person may not succeed. He concluded that a person might resort to suicide or self harm for 1 of 4 reasons, as an escape, as a cry for help, as an act of revenge or as a means of repentance. This is why case studies are so crucial to determining a person's motives. Maxwell Atkinson, who in theoretical terms can be considered to be an ethnomethodologist went even further than Douglas when considering coroners, in Atkinson's work 'The Role of Coroners in Defining Suicide'. Atkinson was interested in how such deaths get catergorized as a suicide, he also dismissed Positivist methods and the use of statistics as he thought that these things have nothing to do with social reality. He said that Suicide is a construct of 'social actors', an aspect of social reality. Coroners reach their verdicts by gathering forensic evidence, witness statements, medical information.etc. ...read more.

Conclusion

The study might at first seem to be Reliable due to the Quantitative methods which are used, but it is now impossible to replicate Durkheim's study since it was conducted many years ago and the statistics will have changed considerably. It might also be argued that the statistics used are vague, too general and 'Socially Constructed'. Another problem with the study is that it lacks validity, without using qualitative methods it is impossible to truly understand suicide, but then on the other hand it is also impossible to communicate with someone who has succeeded in commiting suicide. Perhaps this is where Irving Stengel's concept of Para- Suicide is superior. There are also problems with Durkheim's types of suicide, it is not so easy to pigeon hole somebody like that especially in regards to such a serious topic. A suicide may fall into more than one of these categories, For example, Bobby Sands (IRA hunger striker) falls into all 4 categories. Where does the point of balance fall? Although argued that Durkheim's study is dated, Sainsbury used some of Durkheim's methods and theories in his own study. By using a combination of both qualitative and quantitative methods Sainsbury identified several Social Factors and emphasized the effect of Social Integration. Therefore, although dated by todays standards Durkheim's ideas still hold relevance and significance in todays society, but still, in order to use Durkheim's ideas effectively then the problems in his theories must be solved as Sainsbury attempted to do. ...read more.

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