Emile Durkheim


Tr. by J. Spaulding and G. Simpson.. New York: The Free Press1951 [1897].



But the social environment is fundamentally one of common ideas, beliefs, customs and tendencies. For them to impart themselves thus to individuals, they must somehow exist independently of individuals. (p. 302)

The fact that so many individuals out of 100 kill themselves does not imply that the others
are exposed to any degree and can teach us nothing concerning the nature and intensity of the causes leading to suicide. (p. 305)

How does it happen that a given, supposedly stable society always has the same number of disunited families, of economic catastrophies, etc.? This regular recurrence of identical events in proportions constant within the same population but very inconstant from one population to another would be inexplicable had not each society definite currents impelling its inhabitants with a definite force to commercial and industrial ventures, to behaviour of every sort likely to involve families in trouble, etc. (p. 306)

Collective tendencies have an existence of their own; they are forces as real as cosmic
forces, though of another sort; they, likewise, affect the individual from without, though through other channels. (p. 309)

First, it is not true that society is made up only of individuals; it also includes material things, which play an esesntial role in the common life. The social fact is sometimes so far materialized as to become an element of the external world. (p. 313)

But though these conditions may share in determining the particular persons in them this current becomes embodied, neither the special qualities nor the intensity of the current depend on these conditions. A given number of suicides is not found annually in a social group just because it contains a given number is neuropathies persons. Neuropathies conditions only cause the suicidees to succumb with greater readiness to the current. p. 323

Religion is in a word the system of symbols by means of which society becomes consciously Itself; it is the characteristic way of thinking of collective existence. p. 312

It is not true that society is made up only of individuals; it also includes material things, which play an essential role in the common life. p. 313.

In reality, a people's mental system is a system of definite forces not to be disarranged by simple injunctions. It depends really on the groupings and organization of social elements in a certain way. p. 387


Full text in French:

  1. Introduction & Livre I -- Les facteurs extra-sociaux
  2. Livre II -- Causes sociales et types sociaux
  3. Livre III -- Du suicide comme phénomène social en général

August 29, 2017 [2008]