UGA SOCI 1101 - Discussion 2 - Suicide 1

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Lecture 3 – Suicide 1Today I want to talk about our reading by Jason Manning. I had you all read the Preface and Prologue ofhis book last week, and the first chapter was due today. So, I want to dig into what he has to say, and I want to hear your thoughts and opinions: what did you agree with; what did you disagree with; what surprised you; what don’t you understand? Maybe we should start at the beginning, with the Preface. Preface1. Suicide is an interesting topic. It goes back to sociology’s founding. Which classical sociologist wrote a famous book on suicide? The answer is French sociology Emile Durkheim. He wrote a book called: “Suicide: A Study in Sociology,”published in 1897. Interestingly, if you open Manning’s book and look at the cover page, it is called, “Suicide: The Social Causes of Self-Destruction.” And if you look at the bottom of the page, it’s published by the University of Virginia Press, and it’s a part of a series of books titled “Studies in Pure Sociology.” That is a call back to Durkheim’s classic book. So, suicide has a prominent place in sociology’s history. And that’s one of the reasons why I want us to keep coming back this topic throughout the semester. Suicide also poses a significant challenge for sociology, right? Sociology is trying to explain behavior with forces outside of the individual, yet that isn’t really how we think of suicide is it? Manning tells us that sociology is not the dominant perspectivefrom which we, the general public, view suicide. How do we, in Western society, tend to think about suicide? It’s often not seen as the domain of sociology, but of what? The answer is psychology and psychiatry. If we think about what Black wrote in the first paragraph of our reading from last week, suicide seems to occupy psychological reality, and possibly biological reality.So, suicide, a topic that seems so personal and individual, and as a result outside the realm of the social, poses an interesting challenge for us. So, before we dive into what Manning wrote, let me ask, is it even possible to understand suicide sociologically? Don’t we need to probe the depths of the human mind to really allow us to predict whenit’s likely to occur? What do you think? 1Lecture 3 – Suicide 12. So, last week we read a small section of Black’s 1979 book chapter, “A Strategy of Pure Sociology.” In it, he’s clear that he thinks sociology is the scientific study of variation in social life. Things in social life vary, that is differ, and it’s our job to explain that variation. Why is something this way, and not another way? If we think of sociology in this way, what’s Manning studying? What’s the variation that he’s trying to explain in this book? The answer at the bottom of the first page in the preface, he states that he is “asking why some conflictsare more likely than others to drive people to self-destruction.” That’s the variation he’s trying to explain. He’s not interested in why someone kills themselves, and why someone else doesn’t. Rather, he’s interested in the following: when a moral conflict erupts, when are some people going to respond to that conflict with suicide and others use a different strategy (e.g., calling the police, gossiping, etc.)? PrologueI think that nicely takes us to the Prologue. If Manning is interested in when conflicts are handled with suicide and when they are not, what conflict is he talking about? Tell me about the conflict surrounding Mohamed Bouazizi. What happened?After Manning talks about the case of Bouazizi, he tries to make the argument that we can and should view suicide from a sociological perspective. To make his argument he raises three points. What are these three points? The answer is on pp. 2-3. He states that suicide has social causes, social consequences, and itself is a social act.If suicide has social causes, social consequences, and itself is a social act, maybe the question I asked previously has it backwards. Maybe we shouldn’t ask if it’s possible to understand suicide sociologically.Instead maybe we should ask if it’s possible to understand suicide without sociology? Manning proposes a pure sociology of suicide. He writes, “We see in Mohamed’s story that suicide is a form of social behavior sparked by social causes. It thus requires sociological explanation. This book presents such an explanation—a purely sociological theory of suicide” (p. 4). Because he plans to present a pure sociology of suicide, what does that mean for his independent variables? Will he use psychological variables—such as mental illness—to help him understand suicide? The answer is no. What are the pros and cons of Manning’s approach, of ignoring psychology? 2Lecture 3 – Suicide 1Suicide and Conflict That ends the Prologue. Let’s move to the first paragraph of chapter 1, on page 5. Does anyone want toread this? 1. There are two points that I want to highlight here. The first, is: In the U.S., suicide is much more common than homicide. When people want to kill, either themselves or someone else, what method is most successful? The use of a gun, absolutely. Now, let me ask, out of all the gun deaths in the United States, what percentage are self-inflicted and what percentage are inflicted against someone else? In other words, out of all the people who die by guns in a given year in the U.S., what proportion is suicide and what proportion is homicide? The answer is 60% and 37%, respectively. Literally, two-third of people who die by gun in the U.S. every year, do it to themselves.2. Also, in the first paragraph, Manning makes a really interesting point about homicide and suicideand how it relates to wealth. What does he say? In modern societies, like the contemporary U.S., homicide tends to collect among the poor. Whereas suicide tends to be more widespread across social classes—effecting both rich and poor more equally. I just want to pause and emphasize that this is how I’m encouraging you to think this semester. How aresociologically independent variables, like wealth, related to sociological dependent variables like homicide and suicide? Social life is hierarchical, people have different degrees of wealth, and homicide is more common at lower elevations in social reality, among the poor. We can take this idea and articulate it in a simple clear theoretical statement


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