Year: 1992 - 2011
Length: 1:44 - 5:33
Access: YouTube (PJ Jeremy Music Video, 1992, 5:33)
YouTube (Heaven's Gate Cult, 2008, 3:01)
YouTube (Jobless Veterans, 2011, 1:44)
YouTube (College Student, 2010, 2:16)
Summary: In his classic book, Suicide, Durkheim argued that suicide can be explained by social, rather than psychological or biological phenomena. Drawing upon a variety of statistics (i.e. "social facts"), he explained suicide as resulting from 4 different social causes (e.g. too much or too little integration in society, and too much or too little regulation by society). Integration is the degree to which collective sentiments are shared and have social relations which bind individuals to a group. Regulation is the degree of external constraint on people, including normative or moral demands on an individual in the group. First, egoistic suicide results from too little integration in society. Individuals lack integration within a collective conscience, are missing social relationships which bind them to the group, and thus have unmet needs and personal dissatisfaction. Pearl Jam's video, Jeremy, depicts the egoistic suicide when, at the end of the video, an isolated and tormented child commits suicide in front of his class. Second, altruistic suicide results when integration is too high and a person is almost forced into committing suicide. This includes members of religious cults or the infamous Heaven's Gate cult (see video) that give their lives willingly to the group. Third, anomic suicide occurs when regulation is too low and individuals experience a state of normlessness or rulelessness. This usually happens when the regulative powers of society are disrupted, and the collectivity temporarily loses its authority over individuals, such as after someone suddenly experiences a divorce or unemployment (see Jobless Veterans video). Durkheim had almost nothing to say about the fourth type of suicide, fatalistic suicide, which results from excessive regulation (no video available). This occurs when "persons with futures pitilessly blocked and passions violently choked by oppressive discipline" (Durkheim 1897: 276), such as when a slave may commit suicide. My best class discussions centered around this tragic video of a gay college student who committed suicide after his sexual activity was broadcast on the internet. His suicide may be understood as an experience of an isolated gay male in a hetero-normative culture. While the news video depicts his suicide resulting from his loss of privacy, Durkheim may suggest he lacked integration within society's collective conscience and accepting social relationships, which might have bound him to the collectivity. Note that this integration is promoted later in the video through the work of Dan Savage's "It Gets Better" campaign (the video also notes that gay kids are 4 times more likely to commit suicide, a "social fact").
Submitted By: Paul Dean