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  1. 1. The Rise of Sociology <ul><li>Sociological positivism views the individual as a body that is acted upon, and whose behaviour is determined by external forces </li></ul><ul><li>Little or no role is given to the concept of free will or individual choice </li></ul><ul><li>The study of crime remains in the tradition of positivistic method: something that can be measured using the methodology of the natural sciences </li></ul><ul><li>In Durkheim’s view there is a consensus about what is or isn’t criminal </li></ul>
  2. 2. Suicide: Sociological or Psychological <ul><li>The central tenets of positivism are scientific method, determinism, consensus </li></ul><ul><li>Durkheim’s study of suicide showed how the seemingly individualistic decision to take one’s own life was due to social and economic issues </li></ul><ul><li>In this way Durkheim was able to show how social factors explained individual and group action such as crime, thus in the same way external forces caused suicide, external forces caused crime </li></ul><ul><li>Such an argument moved suicide away from psychological reasons to sociological reasons </li></ul>
  3. 3. Suicide Rates <ul><li>Durkheim’s research showed different patterns in suicide rates in different countries, and these patterns were stable as opposed to a random individual act </li></ul><ul><li>They were higher in Protestant countries than Catholic countries </li></ul><ul><li>The rise and fall in suicide rates appeared to be related to social factors, such as economic recession, surprisingly in times of economic prosperity and fell in times of war and political upheaval </li></ul><ul><li>Finally there were variations in suicide rates between different members of society, for example unmarried and the childless had higher rates of suicide </li></ul>
  4. 4. Explanations of Suicide Rates <ul><li>To prove his case, Durkheim collected statistics from several European countries </li></ul><ul><li>His explanation for the different variations/patterns in suicide rates, he felt was due to different levels of social integration, for example Catholic families had strong family networks that could explain the lower suicide rates in southern European countries </li></ul>
  5. 5. Four Types of Social Structures <ul><li>Durkheim suggested four types of social structures that led to different types of suicide </li></ul><ul><li>Egotistic social structures, like modern Western countries, focuses on individualism therefore integration is weak so suicide rates are high </li></ul><ul><li>Altruistic social structures, individuals are so well integrated that they value the group more then their individuality </li></ul><ul><li>In anomic (normlessness) social structures, the normal social structure have broken down, because of rapid social change and the resulting uncertainty leads to suicide </li></ul><ul><li>Finally in very oppressive societies, such as concentration camps, have fatalistic social structures in which people lose the will to live. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Suicide & Methodology <ul><li>From his analysis of suicide, Durkheim is arguing that human beings are constrained by social forces, social facts can be studied using the methodology of the natural sciences </li></ul><ul><li>Durkheim’s book Suicide: A study in Sociology identified his rules of sociological method. As suicide rates are social facts, social facts are real living forces that act on the individual and these facts can be measured </li></ul><ul><li>Statistical Evidence - it uncovered the patterns in suicide rates between different European Countries </li></ul><ul><li>Correlation and Analysis – he found correlations between suicide rates and a range of social facts </li></ul><ul><li>Causation – having discovered a correlation, Durkheim wanted to find causal connections, which in this case was determined by social integration. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Conclusions – Positivist perspective <ul><li>Realism or Positivism – though Durkheim’s approach is positivist in nature – he’s looking for ‘real laws’ in the same way the natural sciences research the ‘law’s’ of gravity. </li></ul><ul><li>However as Durkheim is identifying ‘laws’ that aren’t observable or measurable like family size, he adopts a realist approach </li></ul><ul><li>Realists argue that the causes of things we observe lie in underlying structures and processes that cannot be observed </li></ul><ul><li>From a Realist standpoint both the natural and social sciences operate in the same way </li></ul>
  8. 8. Suicide – An Interpretivist View <ul><li>From an interpretivist perspective people act in terms of meanings and it’s the job of sociologists to interpret the meanings which direct human action </li></ul><ul><li>In The Social Meanings of Suicide Jack Douglas argues that the first step in studying suicide is to interpret how individuals who commit suicide define and give meaning to their action </li></ul><ul><li>Douglas admits this is easier said than done, however he provided 3 Steps in discovering the meanings </li></ul>
  9. 9. Douglas’ Steps 1 to 3 <ul><li>Step 1 is: </li></ul><ul><li>An analysis of suicide notes (if available) </li></ul><ul><li>An examination of personal diaries </li></ul><ul><li>Interviews with people who knew the victim </li></ul><ul><li>Analyse the events preceeding the suicide </li></ul><ul><li>Interview those who’ve survived suicide attempts </li></ul><ul><li>Douglas rejects Durkheim’s classification method saying it’s too deterministic – it failings to recognise the meaning of the suicide for the victim </li></ul>
  10. 10. Douglas’ Steps 1 to 3 <ul><li>Step 2 </li></ul><ul><li>The next step is to look for patterns of meaning which interviews have shown to be common with suicides, as opposed to attaching meaning to the act as with Durkheim ( a telelogical position) </li></ul><ul><li>Revenge Suicide – example make a formere lover feel guilty </li></ul><ul><li>A Search for Help Suicide – a ‘cry for help’ when all else has failed </li></ul><ul><li>Escape Suicide – an escape from life when it becomes unberable </li></ul><ul><li>Reptance Suicide – an means of expressing sorrow for some wrong doing </li></ul><ul><li>Self-Punishment Suicide – a way of punishing oneself for a misdeed </li></ul>
  11. 11. Douglas’ Steps 1 to 3 <ul><li>Step 3 </li></ul><ul><li>For this Douglas argues you need to link the patterns of meaning with the wider beliefs of the culture </li></ul><ul><li>For example in Western culture suicide is seen as an act of deperation </li></ul><ul><li>Whereas in other cultures it’s expected, for example the suicide of the elderly in nomadic cultures </li></ul>
  12. 12. Suicide and Statistics <ul><li>Douglas is critical of Durkheim’s acceptance of the reliability and validity of official statistics on suicide </li></ul><ul><li>Douglas argues suicide statistics are the result of negotiated meanings, by this he means family and friends might try and conceal the death of a loved one because of the stigma attached </li></ul><ul><li>And this might influence the coroners verdict </li></ul><ul><li>How might you argue that crime statistics are a result of negotiated meanings? </li></ul>
  13. 13. Application of Suicide to Crime <ul><li>In the same way Durkheim assumes there’s a consensus on what is a suicide, there’s the assumption that there’s an agreed definition on what a crime is </li></ul><ul><li>And so in adopting Durkheim’s scientific approach in researching crime via qualitative methodologies your findings could be invalid as the questionnaire is constructed on an assumed consensus on what is a crime making you findings invalid, plus not all deviant acts are defined as a crime </li></ul><ul><li>You could find patterns of correlation between suicide and certain countries, but this doesn’t mean there’s causation. Similarly this occurs with crime figures, you might find a correlation between crime and poverty, but it doesn’t follow you found a casual connection </li></ul><ul><li>Also you might find a correlation but never find out why people do things, unlike interpretivist methodologies </li></ul>
  14. 14. Application of Suicide to Crime <ul><li>Douglas’ research tried to uncover the meaning as to why people committed suicide </li></ul><ul><li>Douglas argues that the label suicide is a result of negotiated meanings – in other words they’re socially constructed – and this process needs to be understood; the same occurs with crime, it’s a socially constructed definition </li></ul><ul><li>The negotiated meanings in crime statistics occurs, this starts with the police in deciding whether an act is criminal or not. Also in the social world not all acts are ‘negotiated’ between the members of society as being criminal – just think of tax evasion being different to tax avoidance </li></ul>
  15. 15. Evaluation of Douglas <ul><li>Suicide statistics are socially constructed from the definitions and meanings </li></ul><ul><li>These meanings are derived from family, friends and officials </li></ul>
  16. 16. Extreme Interpretivism <ul><li>Atkinson takes the interpretivist position to its extreme, to what is known as a phenomenological approach </li></ul><ul><li>This position sees suicide as simply a meaning and there’s no reality beyond that meaning, therefore suicide statistics are not right or wrong they simply are </li></ul><ul><li>The job of the sociologist is to discover the meanings and find out how they’re constructed </li></ul>
  17. 17. <ul><li>Phenomenologists see the process of categorisation as being key. Statistics are simply the products of opinions of those who produce them </li></ul><ul><li>They believe it’s impossible to produce factual data and so impossible to have causal explanations </li></ul><ul><li>Phenomenologists do not try to don’t look at what causes crime but how certain events become defined as crimes </li></ul>
  18. 18. <ul><li>From this suicides are not objective ‘social facts’ with causes that can be explained, they are meanings. To try and discover the ‘causes’ of suicide will simply result in uncovering the meanings used to classify a death as suicide. </li></ul><ul><li>Therefore there are no objective facts with causes which can be explained there are only meanings to be uncovered and understood </li></ul>
  19. 19. Extreme Interpretivism <ul><li>Atkinson conducted observations of inquests, interviewed coroners and an examination of coroner’s records </li></ul><ul><li>Atkinson claimed coroners have a ‘common-sense theory’ of suicide. If the facts fit the theory, then a verdict of suicide is likely </li></ul><ul><li>Atkinson says coroners start by looking for ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ cues to indicate suicide </li></ul>
  20. 20. Extreme Interpretivism <ul><li>Primary cues </li></ul><ul><li>Suicide notes </li></ul><ul><li>Type of death – gassing, drowning, drug overdose </li></ul><ul><li>Place and Circumstance of death </li></ul><ul><li>Secondary Cues </li></ul><ul><li>Life histories or biography – mental illness, few friends, financial problems, disturbed childhood </li></ul><ul><li>Categorising Suicide – if the circumstances of a death meet all the relevant criteria of a ‘typical suicide’ then a verdict of suicide is more likely </li></ul><ul><li>By C Thompson </li></ul>