Identify and describe the four types of suicide that Emile Durkheim delineated.  Include in your description the particular way in which people who commit each type of suicide are connected to...

Identify and describe the four types of suicide that Emile Durkheim delineated.  Include in your description the particular way in which people who commit each type of suicide are connected to their society.

Expert Answers
literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Emile Durkheim, a French sociologist, published his book Suicide (Le Suicide) in 1897. In this book Durkheim defined the four different types of suicide and their grounding in societal factors not individual factors. The four different types of suicide defined in the text are Egoistic, Fatalistic, Anomic, and Altruistic.

Egoistic Suicide

People who would be most likely to commit this type of suicide feel extremely detached from their community. They do not feel a part of the greater whole or a sense of belonging. Typically, elderly people who have lost communication with their community due to inability to get out of their homes would be defined as those who commit egoistic suicide.

Fatalistic Suicide

People who commit fatalistic suicide feel oppressed by the society around them. They feel constantly repressed, both physically and mentally, by those who enforce power over them. People who live in very oppressive countries or prisoners would be most likely to commit fatalistic suicide.

Anomic Suicide

This type of suicide is typical of people who feel morally lost and have no sense of direction in their lives. Given the lack of a solid path, this person would rather die than feel lost. This type of suicide has been defined as the type which people who have been sexually abused would commit. Others have identified this as the type of suicide teenagers commit.

Altruistic Suicide

This type of suicide happens when a group or society has very influential power over individuals. This is also associated with soldiers who go to war for their country and run into the line of fire for their country's good.  Another example of altruistic suicide is committed by suicide bombers or cult suicides. This would be likened to allowing one's self to be sacrificed for crops or gods as well.

thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Émile Durkheim was a French sociologist who was attempting to situate suicide in cultural and social context rather than understanding it primarily as an individual psychological phenomenon. He articulates this understanding in his 1897 book Suicide (Le suicide). He distinguishes four types of suicides, all of which he sees as ultimately rooted in social forces and especially in deficits in social integration:

  • Egoistic suicide: This type of suicide is rooted in a sense of separation or alienation from a social group. This motivation explains why single people are more likely to commit suicide than married ones and how social isolation can lead to suicide in the elderly. 
  • Altruistic suicide: Durkheim sees this as parallel to military service in which people might sacrifice themselves to help society as a whole. This might include the Japanese tradition of Seppuku or the Buddhist practice of self-immolation as a form of social protest or someone in an emergency offering a place on a lifeboat to someone else. 
  • Anomic suicide: This refers to suicide caused by society's failure to provide meaningful places for certain people. The individual's lack of a sense of solidarity and a place within society leads to despair. This can apply to people who lose their places in society, such as people who commit suicide after losing money or jobs.
  • Fatalistic suicide: This is where a society is so oppressive that people see death as preferable to living under the regime. This might explain suicide rates among certain types of minorities (gay and transgender people, for example, in societies that discriminate against them and isolate them) or among black people under apartheid.
kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Through his studies on suicide, Durkheim identified the following four types of suicide:

  1. Altruistic suicide: As the name suggests, altruists are people who are so integrated into society that they no longer care about their individual needs. Altruistic suicides are selfless acts. Whether it is a suicide bomber or a cult follower, this type of suicide is linked to duty and sacrifice.
  2. Egoistic suicide: This type of suicide occurs when an individual does not feel any connection to society. He feels lost and unhappy, without any goal to commit to and, thus, commits suicide.
  3. Fatalistic suicide: In this type of suicide, an individual kills himself because he feels so trapped by society's rules that he has lost his sense of self and sense of freedom. According to Durkheim, people such as young husbands, childless women, and slaves are oppressed by the "inflexible nature" of society's rules and therefore commit suicide.
  4. Anomic suicide: When a society is "disturbed by some painful crisis," some individuals can feel trapped in a "bottomless abyss." These are the suicides which occur as a result of major incidents, like the Great Depression. These individuals feel lost as a result of society's lack of regulation over the lives.