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UCSD Suicide by Emile Durkheim Reflection

UCSD Suicide by Emile Durkheim Reflection


Title: Reflection on Durkheim’s “Suicide” and the Video “Deaths of Despair”

Introduction: In this reflection, we will provide an overview of Emile Durkheim’s chapter from “Suicide” and discuss its relevance to the contemporary issue of “Deaths of Despair” highlighted in the video.

Overview of Durkheim’s Chapter: Durkheim’s Chapter 5 in “Suicide” delves into the concept of egoistic suicide, which he identifies as a result of weak social integration. He explores how individuals’ detachment from societal norms and values can lead to higher suicide rates. Durkheim’s analysis underscores the importance of social cohesion in preventing suicide.

Relevance to Contemporary Issues: The video “Deaths of Despair” draws attention to a concerning trend in America, where deaths due to causes like substance abuse, suicide, and related factors are on the rise. Durkheim’s insights on egoistic suicide provide a lens through which we can understand this phenomenon. The weakening of social ties and a sense of purpose can contribute to these “deaths of despair.”

Connections to Other Readings: Drawing parallels to our class discussions on social change and its impacts, Durkheim’s perspective resonates with the idea that societal shifts can influence individual well-being. This echoes our earlier readings on the effects of economic changes on mental health and community bonds.

Critical Commentary: While Durkheim’s analysis is insightful, it is important to recognize that societal integration is complex and multifaceted. The contemporary landscape involves digital connections that can influence social interactions in nuanced ways not considered in Durkheim’s time. Additionally, factors like economic inequality might exacerbate egoistic tendencies.

Questions for Further Debate:

  1. How can contemporary society promote stronger social integration to counter “deaths of despair”?
  2. Are there cultural differences that affect the applicability of Durkheim’s theories to different regions?
  3. In an increasingly digital world, how do online relationships impact the dynamics of social integration and isolation?

Conclusion: Durkheim’s exploration of egoistic suicide provides a valuable framework for understanding the rise of “deaths of despair” in modern America. By critically evaluating his concepts in light of contemporary factors, we can formulate strategies to address this alarming trend and enhance social cohesion.

UCSD Suicide by Emile Durkheim Reflection



Read Durkheim, Emile – Suicide, Book II, Chap  5

Watch video “Why ‘Deaths of Despair’ May Be a Warning Sign for America”

What You Need to Do

In terms of the concrete requirement, the group will write a short response paper that is between one and two pages long. For these reflections, you should write in single space.

In your reflection you can focus on (or emphasize more) a part of the assigned reading, although it is preferable to always provide your general impression. Thus, even if you plan to focus your reflection on something specific that grabs your attention, you should first provide a brief overview of what the reading is about.

How the Work Should Be Done

Reflections will be on a particular reading or set of readings. Moreover, these readings are clearly identified in the syllabus. This assessment has various goals: keeping track of your engagement with the material, promoting collaborative work and, for learning purposes, your reflection should demonstrate that you have studied the assigned material carefully. While it is not expected that you will understand everything perfectly, studying an article or chapter carefully will make it possible for you to provide meaningful commentary on the text while also avoiding common errors associated with just skimming through.1 It is important to work on the reflection collectively. My main interest is in having you collaborate on building your knowledge of the material. So, if your written response is somewhat different from the guidelines I recommend below, that is fine as long as it shows the effort to work together to produce an understanding of the text. Lastly, since the idea is to write one collaborative response, you should use a collective voice in the text, for example, “We understand that the chapter/article is arguing that… Our position is that the text…”

In terms of practical processes, there are various ways of collaborative work, but here I am putting forward one particular way of doing it. Students belonging to the same group will share a Google Doc they will use to write the reflection or response paper. While you may agree to work on the reflection at different times, students should meet at least once—virtually, of course, not in person (remember we are still in the midst of a pandemic. You can use the meeting to compare your interpretations of the reading, making sure that everyone understands the material and strategize about how you will work on it—for example, you might want to divide the reflection into sections and assign the writing of each section to different students. The final draft should be revised by the whole group.

How to Organize Your Reflection

As a suggestion you can follow the following format.

1. Provide an overview of what the reading is about. This means that you should summarize briefly the overall theme or theses of the assigned readings.

2. Point out to what extent a particular reading (or readings) clarifies a problem. The reading may help us understand better either a contemporary social/economic issue or a conceptual issue. On the other hand, you can also argue that a reading doesn’t help in understanding issues and then explain also why this is so.

3. Moreover, I encourage you to make connections between the reading you are reflecting on and other readings or material previously discussed in class. In addition, you can add a critical commentary on the article/chapter, pointing out what you consider as its shortcomings or blind spots. This last is not required but is welcomed if you find it appropriate to do so (but see my further comments on this strategy below).

4. Lastly, you should come up with questions – which you can list at the end of your reflection – that you think are raised by the articles/chapters (or by a specific article or chapter) but that you think are still open to debate.

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