• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Evaluate Durkheim's claim that interpersonal forces control human behaviour. Illustrate your answer with reference to either his study of suicide or religion.

Extracts from this document...


Social Theory Essay Evaluate Durkheim's claim that interpersonal forces control human behaviour. Illustrate your answer with reference to either his study of suicide or religion. In this essay I will look at Durkheim's claim that interpersonal forces control human behaviour, with an emphasis on his study of suicide, as it pertains to feelings of social solidarity and integration. Durkheim's work will be criticised on the grounds that, arguably, the suicide statistics used may be full of serious inaccuracies and subject to cultural bias, and that circular reasoning was used in his analysis. It will be concluded that Suicide is a vital work, as it was the first effective combination of sociological theory and empiricism to explain a social phenomenon. Introduction Durkheim saw individuals as creatures whose desires were unlimited. (Suicide: A Study In Sociology,1897) Hence, it follows that this natural instability can only be held in check by external controls, that is, by societal controls. When social regulations break down, the controlling influence of society on the individual propensities, is no longer effective; leaving individuals to their own devices. Durkheim called such a state anomie, a condition of relative normlessness in a whole society. ...read more.


Having established these correlations, Durkheim used multi-variant analysis to isolate the most important variables, and to determine whether these were genuine relations between interpersonal forces controlling human behaviour and suicide. For example, Durkheim recognised the possibility that it might be the national culture rather than the main religion of particular countries that accounted for their suicide rate. In order to test whether this was the case he checked on differences within the population of particular countries to see whether these differences supported his view on the importance of religion. For example, Bararia, the area of Germany with the highest number of Roman Catholics, also had the lowest suicide rate. This was, presumably, because of higher levels of collective worship and social integration associated with Catholicism. Durkheim also checked the relative importance of difference factors. He found that high suicide rates were correlated with high levels of education. However, he established that religion was more important than levels of education, because, for example, Jews had a low suicide rate despite having a high level of education. From his analysis of the relationship between suicide rates and a range of social facts, Durkheim began to distinguish types of suicide. ...read more.


Hence, it was difficult to rigorously test the theory for lack of a precise and measurable definition of a key concept. One of the most fiercest of interpretive critics of Durkheim's work is Douglas (1967). His argues that the use of official statistics, in which subjective bias may enter the process of reaching a decision on a suicide classification of a sudden death, make the reading of such statistics questionable. This bias, Douglas suggests, may explain Durkheim's findings as representing little more than a result of negotiations between the different parties involved. His second main argument against Durkheim, is the way in which he treated the act of suicide as the same type of act, without investigating the meaning attached to the act in individual cases, especially concerning cross-cultural variations in meaning. Conclusion Durkheim's theory has some advantages over other theories on the role of interpersonal forces controlling human behaviour, as Suicide was the first systematic application of the sociological method to a social phenomenon. While attacked by interpretists for the unreliability of official statistics on suicide, few have substantially attacked his theoretical conclusions. Hence, Durkheim's work provides a valuable tool to the better understanding of the mechanisms, both personal and societal, behind human behaviour. Word Count: 1998. (This word count does not include the reference list. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Religion in Society section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related University Degree Religion in Society essays

  1. Peer reviewed

    Discuss Kohlberg's theory of Moral Development, use psychological evidence and refer to at least ...

    5 star(s)

    attack were also reasoning at this level, as they were willing to and did die for what they believed was right. Kohlberg said that as people grew older the reached higher levels of moral reasoning and this was proved right in his results, and indeed in a 20 year longitudinal study carried out by Rest.

  2. Argumentative essay - Suicide.

    I definitely think you are. And so I disagree with these religious sayings. Many things can make a person end their life like sorrow and grief, pain and agony but also honour. Like the Japanese kamikaze pilots and fighters who take their lives for: their families to get reward and

  1. Outline and critically discuss the main argument of Durkheim's Suicide. In what sense is ...

    So whenever a problem came up, and if they could not solve it on their own, suicide is then likely to happen. Hence, weaker conscience collective correlated with higher suicide rate. Durkheim started his work by providing a definition for suicide that 'suicide is applied to all cases of death

  2. Can we Predict Moral Behaviour? It is Kohlberg's stage theory of moral development which ...

    He began to look at the possibility that the link between moral judgement and action lay in the degree in which morality and moral concerns were integrated into the person's sense of self. From moral identity there is a psychological need to make actions consistent with ideals.

  1. The essay will attempt to evaluate and assess how the various theoretical perspectives within ...

    Durkheim used the term 'Anomie' to describe a condition of moral deregulation, occurring when social norms and values are confused and unclear to the individual. This gives rise to crime and deviation, especially during periods of social disruption such as economic depression; 'anomie' is produced, resulting in higher rates of deviation.

  2. Emile Durkheim saw sociology as the study of social facts.

    Durkheim, almost ten years before he wrote "Suicide", stated that, "...it is quite certain that a consistent increase in suicides always attests to a serious upheaval in the organic conditions of society..." and attempted to prove this through examination of official government statistics on suicide rates in Europe.

  1. Critically examine the statistical evidence that supports the Secularisation thesis.

    The number of baptisms in 2002 was 151,400 this reduced to 139, 10 by 2008 and a decline in funerals taking place under religious auspices,

  2. According to secularization theory what should happen to religion as society undergoes modernization?

    While Religions elsewhere have found ways to adapt to the new technologies especially in commutating religious traditions in innovative ways, evaluating these findings should be deliberated differently to that of the UK and most European countries.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work