Emile Durkheim (1858-1917)

'Suicide' is the third famous famous book written by Durkheim. He was the most prominent French sociologist of the 19th century and the first modern thinker in the field of sociology. He acknowledged Comte as his master, but he went far ahead of Comte in establishing sociology as an empirical science. He was in part of positivist and believer in applying methods of physical science to the study social actions. He was born on April 15 1858 and died on November 15, 1917. 

Some of the Major Contribution of Durkheim:

  • The division of labour in society - 1893 
  • The rules of sociological method - 1895 
  • Suicide - 1897 
  • Elementary form of religious life - 1912


When Durkheim started studying about suicide, he rejected the most accepted theories of suicide. He believed that suicide is not a personal or individual act. According to him it is the social circumstances and the influence of collective consciousness, which are the main reason responsible for suicide. Durkheim had established the view that there is no society in which suicide does not occur. 


Durkheim:  suicide refer to the “every cause of death in directly or indirectly from a positive or negative death performed by a victims himself and which strives to produce the result” 

On the basis of different kinds of personality and their relationship with the society, he classified suicide in to 3 different types. They are;

  1. Egoistic Suicide
  2. Altruistic Suicide
  3. Anomic Suicide

Egoistic Suicide:

According to Durkheim, the main cause of Egoistic suicide is  lack of integration. When a person becomes detached from the society or when he feels extreme loneliness or ignored or hurt; in these kind of situations some people commit suicide. They are known as egoistic suicide.

Egoistic suicide is the type due to the tendency of individuals to shut down themselves up with themselves. This situation takes place when other individuals and associates are so busy with their own activities that individual feels slighted hurt and ignored. According to Durkheim person who have none or few emotional has less suicide than who have strong emotional attachment.


His statistical comparison shows that: 

  • Married person have lower rate of suicide compare to single, widows, divorced people. 
  • Among married people, couples with children had less suicide rate. 
  • Then he compares suicide among Catholics and protestant. And he found that suicide rate is higher in protestant. Because Catholics are more attached with Church. 

Altruistic Suicide: 

This is the second type of suicide. Such suicide committed by individual having a particular personality. This kind of suicide takes place in the form of sacrifices , in which individual ends his life by heroic means, as to promote a cause or an ideal which is very dear to him. It results from over integration of individual into his grope. Altruistic suicide is taking of once life for the sake of a cause. 

Here individuals give more importance to the values and norm of the society. So comparing to the values and norms of the society, they consider their own personal life has no worth or the society is more valuable than their own lives.


  • Soldiers; they commit suicide for the nation, because of patriotism and discipline. 
  • Sati; wife willingly jump into the funeral pyre of her husband and ends her life. This is because of cultural values.

Anomic Suicide: 

It is also called normelss suicide. This type of suicide is concerned with social disorganization and imbalance. When society is in crises, social relations are disturbed and even destructed. If these changes are sudden, some people could not adjust to the situation. As a result they commit suicide. But if theses changes are gradual most of them may find solutions or adjust to the situation. According to Durkheim, this kind of suicide is more among wealthy people and to illustrate this he gave an example from economic sector.


  • A multimillionaire; He has a high status in the society and he will be respected by others. But if he becomes “pauper” over a night, due to the lose of financial fortune, his social relationships will get disturbed. He may think that people will not accept him like that and as a result he commit suicide.


Even though there are many three different kinds of suicide, the main reasons behind each types of suicide is same, namely a negative social cause or social break down. 

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