In his 1897 work, "Suicide," Durkheim conducted an empirical analysis of sociological methods on a concrete social problem. He asserted that suicide was a social phenomenon, jointly determined by the amount of two social factors; social integration and moral regulation. This paper will address how Durkheim's epistemological thoughts influenced his analysis of the social element of suicide and will attempt to point out inconsistencies in his typology of suicide.
Emile Durkheim .
Emile Durkheim (1858- 1917) was a French scholar and one of the first social theorists to describe his works and ideas as "sociology" (Giddens, 1978). He was also a social psychologist and a philosopher. Unlike the other influential social theorists of the time (Karl Marx and Max Weber) Emile Durkheim's theories were essentially methodological collectivistic, in that he was largely interested in the workings and organs of society that generated social solidarity. After reading his works one can make the argument that there are two Durkheims. The younger Durkheim was a functionalist and a positivist as evident in his works The Division of Labor in Society (1893) and The Rules of Sociological Method (1895) and later in life he turned toward culturalism and became existentially interested in religion, this was when he wrote The Elementary Forms of Religious Life (1912). In what is regarded as his most influential work The Division of Labor in Society (1893) he argues that the form of social cohesion has changed from mechanical solidarity which is based on similarity between individuals to organic solidarity that is based on individual differences, due to increased division of labor, urbanization, and industrialization (Durkheim, 1893) .
Mechanical and organic solidarity are Durkheim's equivalent of traditional authority and legal-rational authority (Weber) or feudalism and capitalism (Marx). Largely influenced by Montesquieu, Durkheim's analysis of this shift in society focuses on the evolution of law, from punitive to restitutive as the manifestation of these changes.