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Suicide: A Study in Sociology (Routledge Classics)
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 23 September 2008
Not sure what the cover is meant to construe, perhaps its a eureka! moment or something, anyway, this is a great book and this is a great edition of the book. The contents are clear, there is a good index included for students or anyone who needs to be able to make quick references to specific parts of the text.

This is a prior really of the first sociological/social explanations for significant individual behaviour using the example of suicide.

As the blurb says this was a phenomenon previously only considered as being psychological in nature and Durkheim doesnt ignore this, there is a good opening chapter on "extra-social" explanations and their significance, Durkheim isnt dogmatic and doesnt dismiss these out of hand but the second and final chapters deal mainly with is own theories of social construction, social interaction, pressure and consequences.

The ideas have in many ways been superseded and it cant be described as total prescient to any current/contemporary scenario as it once was (in this respect there are other sociological and psychological books dealing with fragmentation, identity and disparity). However it is a classic in sociological reasoning and explanation which students, professionals or interested readers could benefit from reading.

The text isnt as accessible and readable as some of the books in the routledge classics range but bearing with it is rewarding, its not a novel afterall but it can give some insights into the day to day and the nature of crisis and individual consequences.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The modern world of the 21st Century is obsessed with external appearances and managing them to broadcast a sheen of radiance in a fit of managing reality which Orwell would have railed against This book is the lodestone of that type of nihilistic belief as it is founded upon faith - a belief that capturing an "objective" reality is required and that it is useful. Durkheim shows how it is done.

Ostensibly capturing "suicide" data should not be difficult, after all, there is a huge difference between someone alive and someone dead - whatever people tell you. However the way that someone dies is socially constructed. For most cultures suicide is a taboo subject, carefully hidden and concealed within devout Catholic countries because it brings stigma to the family. Not to say stigma does not also occur within Northern European countries, but at least you get to enter the cemetery and not placed in an unmarked grave.

Durkheim bases his gathering of "facts" on the written bureaucratic records and here is the beginning of the problem - the assumption that written records are reliable.

As someone previously involved in constructing them I can assure you they are not. They are socially constructed.

Someone who jumps in front of a train or hangs themselves or takes poison is a clear suicide - especially if there is a note. But what about the man who drinks himself to death or the person who drives too fast around the bend, then it becomes much more ambiguous? Or what about the people who starve themselves to death or overdose?

So "Suicide" which appeared so clear then becomes not so, it becomes uncertain. However what Durkheim does within the book is reflect on his desire to make connections between different components and reduce "suicide" to causes. Reality is much more complex. However within the modern era, this complexity which Durkheim realised was embodied within the data has not been heeded. The modern world is constructed from the collection and dissemination of alleged "facts," in an ongoing information war. For the modern corporate drone, belief in the propaganda is ultra important and so pumping out statistics to politicians to manufacture reality is their prime occupation.

Durkheim - a critique - the most obvious is he lacks any connection to anyone who has either tried to commit suicide or spoken to any relatives of someone who has. This details THE major flaw in this approach, despite what anyone else says - as the collation of statistics is one thing, but finding a meaning within the tea leaves is another.

As it is such a sensitive subject the standard sociological methods of clip boards and control studies no longer apply. These were all figments of the Galtonian imagination in any case, a desire to build reality within his obsessive image of total control. This belief system was taken up by Durkheim who is more progressive than Galton but who also reinforces his inability to comprehend emotions. In this book he takes apart the "race theory" but he reifies the bureaucratic mind control.

Durkheim and Galton have assisted in bringing to the fore the "iron cage of bureaucracy" which Weber railed about. This book takes you back to the beginning; how the world has been constructed. Therefore this gets a 5 but for its impact I could not even provide a negative score, as it has led to disaster after disaster as social scientists fail to look beyond the ideas which Durkheim provided for them.
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on 9 October 2013
Great translation of Suicide.
Good read for any work on Durkheim and understanding his approach on sociology and his ideas and concepts which become seen throughout all of his works.
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