According to Emile Durkheim there are four types of suicides. In this article we will go into depth about each of the four: Egoistic, Altruistic, Anomic, and Fatalistic. Durkheim, born on April 15, 1858 and living until November 15, 1917, was a French sociologist who established the formal study of society. He was well known for his study of suicide rates among Catholics and Protestants in his seminal monograph, “Suicide”.
Emile’s study led him to establish the four categories of suicides we know today, the first being Egoistic suicides. These are the result of excessive “individuation”, or isolation from the social group as a whole. A lack of social integration will lead an individual to possibly take their life due to loneliness or depression. Durkheim found out that males, usually the single ones, were much more likely to commit suicide than those with better social connections (i.e. customs, jobs, families, etc.). Males are more likely, as well, to seek out an individual life away from a community, which can lead to depression and (consequently) killing oneself.
Altruistic suicides are from high integration of society. This is the opposite of Egoistic suicide. These people will die for the common good, as their personal needs don’t seem important compared to the group as a whole. An example would be military service, where a soldier is expected to die for his/her country; or where a mother pushes her child, who is in front of a moving car, away while hurting herself in the process.
Anomic suicides are the result of a lack of meaning in one’s life. In other words, no moral regulation makes it impossible for a man to establish his place in the world. An archaic world would leave a man confused, life a mystery, and the value of his/her own life, worthless.
Fatalistic suicides, the last that we will cover, are due to excessive social restraint. A good example of this would be a man who kills himself before the police take him to jail. Jail might be seen as oppressive and would prohibit the man from fulfilling his dreams. These generally occur in highly conservative countries or strict, traditionalist societies.
Durkheim’s four categories are well defined and all represent social problems taken to an extreme by those who, unfortunately, take their own lives. The problems are not the people, but the specific situation they are put in.
– Death Reference, Durkheim, Emile
– Wikipedia, Emile Durkheim