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Suicide: A Study in Sociology

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  3,206 ratings  ·  125 reviews
A classic book about the phenomenon of suicide and its social causes written by one of the world’s most influential sociologists.

Emile Durkheim’s Suicide addresses the phenomenon of suicide and its social causes. Written by one of the world’s most influential sociologists, this classic argues that suicide primarily results from a lack of integration of the individual into
Paperback, 405 pages
Published February 1st 1997 by Free Press (first published 1897)
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Mar 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a seriously interesting book. It is an early classic of sociology (and of sociological thinking) and so, as such, it is one of those books you are supposed to at least know-of, if not to have actually read. And, despite it being rather long, it is surprisingly easy to read.

In many ways this book is interested in something much deeper than just suicide – that probably sounds daft and perhaps even unfeeling, but there clearly is a deeper problem occupying Durkheim’s attention in this book
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
I read this in college. It was interesting and dryly written. It draws connections between variables and confounds like class status, religious tradition, and literacy and the rate with which people in various cross-sections of these things decide that life is not worth living. Turns out that money and god and reading aren't enough to keep people protected from themselves.

A groundbreaking work of social science.

Here's what happens when you try to kill yourself with Google:

"Suicide is another t
E. G.
Further Reading
Translator's Note

--On Suicide

May 30, 2012 rated it liked it
3 1/2 stars. This is a very difficult work to review. There's a lot of good here, but there's also a lot of bad. I'll start with the good.

-Durkheim exposes a lot of facts about suicide that have been successfully validated by contemporary studies of the subject. For example, the greater likelihood of unmarried individuals to commit suicide, the increased likelihood of suicide with age, the greater likelihood of educated individuals to commit suicide, etc.

-Durkheim's thesis that, at least for the
Seth Augenstein
Feb 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-best
Blah blah blah - the charts are skull-fuckingly boring. Still, the best lesson in human existence imaginable. (It took some number crunching to prove that we swallow and spit ourselves up interminably, for eternity.)
Apr 22, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Suicide: A Study in Sociology (1897) is arguably Émile Durkheim’s most famous book. After reading it, I can add to this: it’s also his most clearest book. That is, clear in the sense that it exposes Durkheim’s perspective on the then newly founded science sociology. Why? Because Durkheim distinguished himself from contemporary social scientists with his principle of emergence (my own terms). According to Durkheim, society has laws of its own, inexplicable in terms of the psychology of individual ...more
Emma Sea
Groundbreaking? Yes.

Important? Yes.

Could I force myself to read the whole thing? No.

DNF at page 167. I didn't even get half way.
Mar 08, 2011 rated it liked it
(7/10) Going in I expected reading Durkheim in the 21rst century to be a purely historic endeavour, examining up close the beginnings of the social sciences but not really learning anything. And there's a large chunk of the book that's like that, including uncomfortable sections about "lower races" and the natural inclinations of women. But there's also a lot in here that spoke to questions I'd been considering later, about the intersection of the individual and society and the difficulty of try ...more
Apr 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought it would be time for more Durkheim. I have only read one of his works, "Elementary Forms of Religious Life" and found that if it were possible for one book to change a life this would be it for me. Durkheim's meticulous reading of primitive religion (his term-"Elementary Forms" was written over 100 years ago) led him, seemingly inexorably, to the conclusion that when we say we worship the divine we are substituting the term divine for our own transcendental nature created when humankin ...more
May 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: on-science
While I remain generally suspicious of sociology as an academic discipline, what Durkheim attempts to do here is impressive.

There are lines of inference I disagree with, and some which are contextually outdated (related to marriage), but in the whole these interpretations still seem relevant.

Although it is readable for laypeople I would only recommend this for people with an academic/professional interest in general statistical trends for suicide. The explanation of the statistics, and those o
Professor David Downes has chosen to discuss Emile Durkheim’s Suicide: A Study in Sociology , on FiveBooks as one of the top five on his subject -Crime and Punishment, saying that:

“…Durkheim focuses on the ‘non-contractual elements in contract’ – trust, integrity and moral obligations – as the prime source of social cohesion in economic relations. Elementary sociology but ignored by, or unknown to economists, for whom Durkheim should be compulsory reading. Feral bankers are a far greater thre
Jimmy Jonecrantz
More than a hundred years after it was written, it still challenges common views on suicide, makes surprising conclusions and uses interesting historical comparisons. Some the conclusions are today easily refuted (such as the conclusions of why women have less to gain by the marriage), but to me that is just to be expected. Well worth the read for those interested in sociology and psychology.
Jul 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: suicide, psychology
the first "real" book on suicide, durkheim was a sociologist who first started looking at suicide in 1897. the result is a landmark text in psychology, and the foundation text for suicidology.

it's really brilliant, tries to quantify suicidology into a science - which is desperately hard, because obviously you can't exactly run experiments on what causes people to kill themselves and what doesn't. (oh, ethical problems!)

the only problem is that it does read like a text - and add the fact that h
Jan 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Durkheim remains my favorite social theorist (unless you include Foucault in that genre, which some do). The concept of Anomie can be attributed to several other social constructs in our little world. I've read this book twice, I'll probably read it again in a few years. ...more
Nov 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sociology
There has been some time since I last encountered such a dramatic yet enjoyable read. I have heard about this work several years ago and it has been lingering on my to-read list ever since, when I still considered social science to be a possible choice of career. Now things have changed sharply in many aspects and I am away from social science for good, I still find this work exciting.

Unlike modern social science people who secretly serve their statistics overlord, Durkheim has a very broad scop
Jan 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Of the whole Marx, Weber, Durkheim trifecta, these are my favorites to read (and this is about pleasure, not about theoretical or ideological paradigms):

Suicide: a sociological study, by Durkheim, and "The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte", by Marx. (Note the absence of any of Weber's works. Groundbreaking he may be, but a gifted writer he is not).

The elegance and apparent simplicity of Durkheim's "Suicide" belies its importance in the history of sociological thought. Would that all socia
Apr 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: science geeks, anthropologists, sociologists
This book provided the foundation for sociology as a separate discipline. Durkheim took a phenomenon that seems on the surface completely psychological -- suicide -- and approached it by studying broader social trends at the group level. The patterns he identified were remarkable.
Social science FTW!
Jamie O'Duibhir
Jan 28, 2013 rated it liked it
Dry, difficult, but fascinating look at suicide. Durkheim is very methodical and careful not to draw conclusions where there are none. He does fall short on certain chapters, one in particular that struck me was when he talked about the Japanese honor suicide and the Indian practice of a widow throwing herself on the funeral pyre.
Aug 07, 2013 rated it liked it
I'll have to say I never really understood the term social science until I read this book. Durkheim is often enough called the father of sociology and this book, published early in the 20th century presents interesting facts, statistics and trends on the subject. Can't say that he got it right all the time, but what is the fun with agreeing with everything anyway? ...more
Maarya Abbasi
meh - a very dense read that is bogged down by baseless racist and patriarchal beliefs. some of the theory still holds up, but overall this is such an overwrought and overrated work. social scientists always kiss this dude's ass but he really doesn't deserve it imo ...more
This went better the second time around.
Sep 19, 2017 rated it liked it
I will start off by saying that I did not choose to read this book by choice, however I am glad that I did it. I often felt at times that I was swamped with confusing statistics mixed in with dissections. If it weren't for reading it almost continuously every single day, I feel like I would have gotten even more lost. Many of the chapters are nuanced in their attempt to create specific types of suicides. My "professor" highlighted Durkheim's attention to highlighting how gender plays an importan ...more
Jan 05, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Setting aside the misogyny (if that is, indeed, possible) of a scientific text written in 1897, this remains a stunning account of the social and cultural physics of suicide, a work that finally placed most of the fatal onus on society and not the individual. There is a lot to learn here, whether in subject or in method, and many of the statistics on display (and what they reveal) are genuinely surprising. Why do more people end their lives in summer than winter? Why are economic booms as deadly ...more
Emilie Anderssen
This book is difficult to rate, as I recognise that it is an important and classical text for sociology. However, I found this extremely dry and difficult to get through. As well as that, I can't agree with Durkheim when he talks about the individual playing absolutely no part in why people take their lives. I also had problems with the sexism used as reasoning for several parts of the research.

Overall, I understand why we are told to read this for university, but I did not enjoy the reading pr
Aug 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: sociology
This is way more focused on statistics but is interesting as a way to think and divide the sociological information about suicide; location, religious belief, marital status, etc. and the rate at which suicide occurs within those factors. It's pretty dry as a case study, and obviously a flawed one these days, but as a document considering social factors not just psychological ones it is revealing. ...more
Rory Burns
This book is a long slog of a read. Reams and reams of pages filled with data and statistics from the 19th century on death rates in France. Much of this I had to skim through (if you delve into these pages you need new hobbies). Some key major points are raised and explored which interested me a lot I.e.: legality of suicide/ assisted dying, but a whole lot of this is essentially pointless reading.
Dec 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, science
This past week, a student who attempted suicide on BYU campus died in the hospital after sustaining critical injuries. The incident has sparked a conversation about student mental health and resources available to students on the campus, where the ratio of counselors to students in 1 to 1000. I have followed some of the conversation on Twitter, and it has truly been heart-rending:
Mamluk Qayser
Feb 23, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021
Reading this book made a specific quote entered my mind, by Albert Camus;

“There is only one really serious philosophical problem,” Camus says, “and that is suicide. Deciding whether or not life is worth living is to answer the fundamental question in philosophy. All other questions follow from that”

This book might be a little bit outdated, but most of the facts still conformed with the current data my psychiatry handbook in med school. Emile Durkheim was one of the first sociologist who incorpor
Olya Ianovskaia
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ummia Gina
Jun 25, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: suicide
There is a lot a really liked about this book however I agree with most of the other reviews that it gets tiresome reading through all of the old charts and statistics from 19th century France. I normally love dry books with lots of statistics but when they are as old as this book it makes it a lot less interesting.
That complaint aside, I enjoyed reading this. The general theme of the book was suicide results from a loss of the bond between an individual and society rather than from an individ
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What are the essential books on the topic of suicide? 1 4 Feb 23, 2017 10:53AM  

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Much of Durkheim's work was concerned with how societies could maintain their integrity and coherence in modernity; an era in which traditional social and religious ties are no longer assumed, and in which new social institutions have come into being. His first major sociological work was The Division of Labor in Society (1893). In 1895, he published his Rules of the Sociological Method and set up ...more

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