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The Ordeal and the Sacrifice

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Part of the Contemporary Social Theory book series (CONTSTHE)


This chapter is concerned with the development of an alternative social-psychological approach to suicide. Typically sociological approaches have been associated with the analysis of suicide rates, while the few alternative critical studies have tended to be neo-phenomenological, or ‘interpretative’, thus reflecting a more general debate in the social sciences between ‘positivism’ and ‘subjectivism’. What is common to both parties in this dispute is the acceptance of a positivist account of natural science, the point at issue being whether or not it is applicable to the study of the social world. In contrast, the structural approach developed here is based upon a realist view of natural science which rejects the positivist ontology of nominalism, its empiricist epistemology and its general belief in an absolute unity of scientific method. For the realist, science involves the explanation of observable phenomena through the discovery of underlying, unobservable structures and causal processes.1

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Notes and References

  1. Shneidman, ‘Classification of Suicidal Phenomena’, Bulletin of Suicidology (July 1968).

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  2. A. E. Moll, ‘Suicide: Psychopathology’, Canadian Medical Journal, vol. 74 (1956) p. 106.

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  3. L. Binswanger, ‘The Case of Ellen West’, in R. May (ed.), Existence ( New York, Basic Books, 1958 ) p. 292.

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  4. N. N. Holland, ‘Literary Suicide: A Question of Style’, Psychocultural Review, vol. i (1977) pp. 285–303.

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  5. R. E. Litman, ‘Immobilisation Response to Suicidal Behaviour’, Archives of General Psychiatry vol. 2 (1964) pp. 282–5.

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  6. S. Perlin and C. W. Schmidt, ‘Psychiatry’, in S. Perlin (ed.), A Handbook for the Study of Suicide (Oxford University Press, 1975 ) p. 157.

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© 1982 Steve Taylor

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Taylor, S. (1982). The Ordeal and the Sacrifice. In: Durkheim and the Study of Suicide. Contemporary Social Theory. Palgrave, London.

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