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 presented by author / motivational speaker Nancy McFadden M.A.

--page 1--  Suicide go to page 1- 2- 3- 4


 The intent in this presentation is to discuss 'Suicide' as a social concept using a theory espoused by Emile Durkheim (1858-1917). What makes Durkheim's theory worthy of consideration is the main thrust in his overall doctrine which was an insistence that we shun biologistic and psychologistic interpretations of behaviors and focus instead, on 'social facts'.
Durkheim insisted that the study of society must refrain from reductionism and lend more weight to a generic social phenomenon. It was his opinion that social phenomena are 'social facts' and therefore, the subject matter of sociology.
In Durkheim's opinion, these 'social facts' have specific social characteristics and determinants which cannot be identified and explained on a biological or psychological level. They are, he claimed, external to any particular individual. From there, Durkheim focused his attention on the social-structural determinants of mankind's social problems - suicide being one of them.
To Durkheim, suicide could not be explained on a biologic level because it, like other 'social facts', endured over time. As well, it survived particular individuals who, he claimed died and were replaced by others. The resurgence of the situation was, for him, evidence of a coercive social power which imposed itself on certain individuals - independent of his or her individual will. *1
So, in Durkheims's opinion, a 'social fact' could therefore, be defined as "every way of acting, fixed or not, capable of exercising on the individual an external constraint". *2
Constraints, he claimed, whether in the form of laws or customs, comes into play whenever social demands are being violated. These sanctions, are imposed on individuals and channel and direct their desires and propensities. In other words, society, not the individual rules.
During the development of his theory, Durkheim came to stress that social facts, and more particularly, moral rules, become effective guides and controls of conduct only to the extent that they become internalized in the consciousness of individuals, while continuing to exist independently of individuals.
According to this formulation, constraint is no longer a simple imposition of outside controls on individual will, but rather a moral obligation to obey a rule. In this sense, society is something beyond us and something in ourselves. *3
Out of his theory evolved a kind of argument which was, that when interacting individuals create a reality (such as the phenomenon of suicide), the determining cause of this, or any social fact, should be sought among the social facts preceding it and not among the states of the individual consciousness. This was the basis of his theory and as it developed, Durkheim became more concerned with the characteristics of groups and structures rather than with individual attributes.

Suicide go to page 1- 2- 3- 4

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Warning! These speeches are copyrighted by McFadden Seminars Inc. You may use these speeches as long as you credit Nancy McFadden M.A. and "The Lifeskills Series" as your reference. Electronic reprints in whole or part must contain the same credit as well as a visible link to

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