Discuss Functionalist and Interpretive accounts of suicide
Sociology is the scientific study of social relations, institutions, and societies, 1 and in sociological study the subject of suicide comes under the heading of deviance, which commonly refers to violations of social norms. 1 Suicide is defined as the intentional taking of one’s own life. 6 As a deviant behaviour, the phenomenon of suicide has fascinated sociologists since the early 19th century, and has been the focus of many studies by functionalist and interpretive sociologists among others.
The sociological and statistical study of suicide began in the 1820's with research by Jean-Pierre Falret in France, and Johann Casper in Germany. This was of great interest to the functionalist sociologist Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) who organized their earlier work and integrated it into a theoretical framework in the late 1800s. His groundbreaking book “Suicide: A Study in Sociology” was published in 1897 and by choosing to study suicide he sought to reinforce the process of sociology becoming established as an academic discipline in 19th century France. 3 (Sociology, Themes and Perspectives, pg 874) He wanted to show how his particular approach, as a functionalist, to investigating suicides was distinct from other disciplines, such as psychology and biology. He also wanted to test the claims of scientific knowledge, in the research of suicide, made by positivists before him.
Functionalism is the perspective of sociology, which originates from positivism. Positive sociologists believe that all knowledge can be based on science, or scientific thought, and that all behaviour is subject to common law. While Emile Durkheim, as a functionalist agreed with this approach, he also argued that sociology should also study ‘social facts’, which were external to the individual. 4 (Sociology In perspective, pg 17) In his book, he showed that the individual act of suicide could...