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This review is from: Suicide: A Study in Sociology (Routledge Classics) (Paperback)
The modern world is obsessed with appearances and managing them to broadcast a sheen of radiance. This book is the lodestone of that type of belief and faith in capturing an "objective" reality and Durkheim shows how it is done.
Ostensibly capturing "suicide" data should not be difficult, after all, there is a huge difference between someone live and someone dead, whatever people tell you. However the way that someone dies is socially constructed and suicide is a taboo, carefully hidden within Catholic countries because it brings stigma. Not so say it does not also do that in Northern European countries, but at least you get to enter the cemetery.
Durkeim bases his "facts" on the written records and here is the beginning of the problem - the assumption that written records are reliable. 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?
So "Suicide" which appeared so clear then becomes not so. However what Durkheim does within the book is reflect on the desire to make connections between different components is much more complex. However within the modern era, this has not been heeded. The modern world is constructed from the collection and dissemination in an information war. For the modern corporate drone, belief is important and pumping out statistics to politicians to manufacture reality is their prime occupation.
What Durkheim lacks is any connection to someone who has either tried to commit suicide or spoken to any relatives. This details the major flaw in this approach, 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. 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 how the world has been constructed and therefore gets a 5 but for its impact I could not even provide a score, as it has led to disaster after disaster as social scientists fail to look beyond the ideas which Durkheim provided for them.