Durkheim's depiction of anomie in his publication 'Suicide' is relevant today, in part. Durkheim says that anomie is a central cause of suicide and one of the ills of modern society. We can see this phenomenon of anomie occurring with our recent economic crisis. Social and moral norms are confusing, and are thus leading to deviant behavior. Financially powerful people all over the world are committing suicide. The recession is affecting all classes of people. According to popular media, people are starting to lose their jobs, the stock market is plummeting, wealth is disappearing, businesses are closing, and suicide is on the rise. However, middle class people are less likely to commit suicide than financial big-wigs because their family relationships are closer, their financial losses are never that disproportionate, and their religious beliefs are stronger. For the upper class, wealth and status are very intertwined with the self.
According to Durkheim, people commit suicide because society has failed to give them a sense of self, or because they have excessive or deficient social integration. As we can see from the 2008 economic recession, this is true. However, Durkheim fails to elaborate that there is a genetic basis for suicide risk. Studies show that low seratonin levels and other psychiatric illnesses are leading causes of suicide (CMAJ 2000). With the advancement of medical research, Durkheim would have had no way of knowing the genetic basis of suicide in the 19th century. Undoubtedly, there are environmental reasons for suicide, but it is inaccurate to say what we know today that there are not internal influences for suicide, as well.
How applicable is Durkheim's theory of Suicide today given what we know about medicine and psychology?
Basky, G. 2000. Suicide linked to seratonin gene. CMAJ. 162: (9).
Stern, L. 2009. Killer economy? Newsweek. (January 14, 2009). Retrieved from:
http://www.newsweek.com/id/179422. Accessed: January 31, 2009.