Sociology Index E-Books

Egoistic Suicide

Altruistic Suicide, Altruism, Anomic Suicide, Fatalistic Suicide, Models who committed suicide. Why?

Egoistic Suicide occurs in a society where there is excessive individualism, that is, low social integration. Egoistic suicide is committed by people who are not strongly supported by membership in a cohesive social group.

Detachment from society results in detachment from life because society gives meaning to life.

In a society with high integration, high value is given to human existence resulting in low suicide rates.

In a society with low integration, Low value is given to human existence resulting in high suicide rates.

Egoistic suicide occurs when an individual has a low level of integration into society, while fatalistic suicide occurs in a highly regulated, social environment where the individual sees no possible way to improve his or her life.

According to David Emile Durkheim, the self of the person who commits egoistic suicide is characterized by deep meditation and self-examination, while the self of the person committing anomic suicide is marked with keen desire and sensuality.

Durkheim viewed egoistic suicide as a consequence of the deterioration of social and familial bonds and linked anomic suicide to disillusionment and disappointment.

Durkheim distinguished between egoistic, anomic, altruistic, and fatalistic suicide, broad classifications that reflect then-prevailing theories of human behavior. Durkheim dismissed altruistic and fatalistic suicide as unimportant.

The egoist is unhappy because he sees nothing "real" in the world besides the individual, the egoist sees no goal to which he might commit himself, and thus feels useless and without purpose. The melancholy of the egoist is one of incurable weariness and sad depression.

Durkheim contended that the reasons why people kill themselves by their own hand or invite it at the hands of others is far from being a random or idiosyncratic matter. For each social group, he contended, "there is a specific tendency to suicide [that depends] upon social causes..."

In certain types of societies, "excessive individuation leads to suicide." In others, "insufficient individuation has the same effects." Durkheim based his conclusions on statistical comparisons between suicide rates in Catholic, Protestant and Jewish populations in Europe toward the end of the 19th century.

People have a certain level of attachment to their groups, which Durkheim calls social integration. Abnormally high or low levels of social integration may result in increased suicide rates; low levels have this effect because low social integration results in disorganised society, causing people to turn to suicide as a last resort, while high levels cause people to kill themselves to avoid becoming burdens on society.

Durkheim found out that:
Suicide rates are higher for those widowed, single and divorced than married. Marriage develops a sense of belonging which makes seperation difficult.
Suicide rates are higher for persons without children than with children. Parents develop a certain level of attachment.
Suicide rates are higher among Protestants than Catholics and Jews. Among Catholics and Jews there is normal levels of integration while Protestant society has low levels.

In Protestant societies where religious doctrines stress individual conscience as the pathway to salvation, the typical suicide occurs because the victim has failed to resolve the fundamental moral dilemmas which coping with them on his own recognizance minus priestly crutches poses. Durkheim called this egoistic suicide.

A Comparative Analysis of Durkheim's Theory of Egoistic Suicide - K. D. Breault, Karen Barkey
Copyright 1982 Midwest Sociological Society
ABSTRACT: This paper reports a comparative cross-national test of Durkheim's theory of egoistic suicide, involving indicators of religious, family, and political integration. Linear and nonlinear multiple regression analysis showed that the relationships between religious integration and suicide and between political integration and suicide are inverse exponential functions of the form Y = aebX, while the relationship between family integration and suicide is linear. The relationships between the independent and dependent variables are strong and highly significant. Together, our indicators of religious, family, and political integration explain about 76 percent of the variation in international rates of suicide.

Fatalistic Suicide is a type of suicide, identified by Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), occurring in social conditions where the individual experiences pervasive oppression. Durkheim’s defined fatalistic suicide as resulting "from excessive regulation," whose "passions [were] violently choked by oppressive discipline,"

The category of fatalistic suicide was constructed mainly for purposes of symmetry (as contrasted with egoistic suicide) and because it would undercut his central claims about the role of modern urban life as increasing the incidence of suicide, Durkheim could never seriously examine the possibility that social integration could result in suicide. 

Fatalistic suicide served as a descriptor for suicides in traditional societies, because Durkheim was faced with the issue that even in societies with abundant social capital, individuals nevertheless killed themselves.  

Durkheim linked anomic suicide to disillusionment and disappointment. Durkheim borrowed the word anomie from the french philosopher Jean-Marie Guyau and used it in his book Suicide (1897).