Answer all the questions on the worksheet in full sentences with zero grammar mistakes. Make sure you do NOT plagiarize anything.October 2, 2020
Theme: Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
Aim: According to Emile Durkheim, why do people commit suicide?
Activity #1: What was Durkheim trying to illustrate about society in defining the concept of “anomie?”
1. Annotate or highlight the text for important information relating to anomie and society.
2. Answer the corresponding questions.
3. Write down two notes you have from the reading.
Since people began studying the act of suicide, scientists have focused on the personal lives of the
deceased to explain why people committed suicide. In his groundbreaking study, Suicide (1897), Emile Durkheim
attempted to demonstrate that suicide researchers should look at the relationships a person has or does not have
with others when trying to explain why people commit suicide. Durkheim believed that if he could show how the
act that is seen as the most selfish and individual act is actually the result of the social world, he would illustrate
the usefulness of sociology and his rules of the sociological method.
In this book, Durkheim developed the fundamental sociological concept of anomie, which he defined as
a state or condition of individuals or a society characterized by a breakdown or absence of social norms and
values. He believed that anomie was the cause of suicide. He characterized four different types of suicide based
on his theory: Anomic, Egoistic, Altruistic, and Fatalistic.
Focus Questions:
1. What was Durkheim’s purpose in studying the act of Suicide?
2. How does Durkheim describe the concept of anomie? Give an example to support your answer.
Activity #2: How does Durkheim attempt to explain why people commit suicide?
1. Read and paraphrase the meaning of each category of suicide in the space provided.
2. Identify which of the categories apply to the two scenarios listed below.
1. Anomic Suicide: Anomie is a state in which there is weak relationship between the society’s norms and
a person. This is most often the result of dramatic changes in economic and/or social circumstances.
This type of suicide happens when the social norms and laws governing the society do not correspond
with the life goals of the person. Since the individual does not identify with the norms of the society,
suicide seems to be a way to escape them.
2. Egoistic Suicide: Egoism is a state in which the ties attaching a person to others in the society are weak.
Since the person is only weakly integrated into the society, their suicide will have little impact on the
rest of the society. In other words, there are few social ties to keep the individual from taking their own
3. Altruistic Suicide: Altruism is a state opposite to egoism, in which a person is extremely attached to the
society and thus has no life of their own. People who commit suicide based on altruism die because they
believe that their death can bring about a benefit to the society. In other words, when a person is too
heavily integrated into the society, they will commit suicide regardless of their own hesitation if the
society’s norms ask for the person’s death. Durkheim saw this as occurring in two different ways: 1)
Where people saw themselves as worthless or a burden upon society and would therefore commit
suicide. 2) Where people saw the social world as meaningless and would sacrifice themselves for a
greater ideal.
Fatalistic Suicide: Fatalism is a state opposite to anomie in which social regulation is completely
instilled in the person; there is no hope of change against the oppressive discipline of the society. The
only way for the individual to be released from this state is to commit suicide.
Directions: Use these two examples to explain which theory of anomie best illustrates what happened
Bill Wiley’s wife Beth worked late often. Sometimes when Beth got home her breath smelled of
alcohol. She said that she and her coworkers, at Applebee’s, would have a drink at the end of their shift.
Bill did not believe her. He believed that she was having an affair. He had few friends due to his
paranoid tendencies and could not discuss his suspicions. One night Bill spied on Beth from the parking
lot and noticed how she chatted several times with a handsome young coworker. When the shift ended,
Beth and her coworker left the restaurant. Bill approached Beth, shot her in the face, shot the coworker,
and finally shot himself.
One day Tito sees Franklin carrying a huge stack of books from his locker. Tito feels bad for his tiny
classmate and offers to help carry them. At Tito’s house the two play video games and mock their
sociology teacher. The next day Franklin thanks Tito. He explains that he was planning to commit
suicide that night and was taking his books home so as not to be a problem.
Summary: According to Emile Durkheim, why do people commit suicide?
Application: Émile Durkheim on Suicide & Society: Crash Course Sociology #5 (9:36)

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