Sociology Index

Egoistic Suicide

Egoistic suicide occurs in a society where there is excessive individualism and low social integration. Egoistic suicide is committed by people who are not strongly supported by membership in a cohesive social group. A classic example of egoistic suicide is when a loner who has few friends, and no family committed suicide. Egoistic suicide rates are low when there is high integration and high value is given to human existence. Egoistic suicide relates to individualism where bonds with others are loosened. Egoistic suicide occurs when one determines that there is no longer a reason to exist in life. Egoistic suicide also 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. The factors leading to egoistic suicide can be social currents such as depression and disillusionment.

According to David Emile Durkheim, the self of the person who commits egoistic suicide is characterized by deep meditation and self-examination. The self of the person committing anomic suicide is marked with keen desire and sensuality. Take the example of models who committed suicide due to anomie. Durkheim viewed egoistic suicide as a consequence of the deterioration of social and familial bonds and linked anomic suicide to disillusionment and disappointment.

Altruistic Suicide is a suicide committed for the benefit of others or for the community. 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 that "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.

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. Abstract: This paper reports a comparative cross-national test of Durkheim's theory of egoistic suicide, involving indicators of religious, family, and political integration. 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.