Sociology Index

Anomic Suicide

Models who committed suicide

David Emile Durkheim linked anomic suicide to disillusionment and disappointment. Durkheim defined the term anomie as a condition where social and also moral norms are confused, unclear, or simply not present. Durkheim also felt that lack of norms led to deviant behavior. Anomie is a concept developed by Emile Durkheim to describe an absence of clear societal norms and values. In the concept of anomie individuals lack a sense of social regulation: people feel unguided in the choices they have to make. Durkheim distinguished between egoistic suicide, anomic suicide, altruistic suicide, and fatalistic suicide, broad classifications that reflect then-prevailing theories of human behavior. Dismissing altruistic and fatalistic suicide as unimportant, he viewed egoistic suicide as a consequence of the deterioration of social and familial bonds.

The term 'altruism' was used by Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) to describe a suicide committed for the benefit of others or for the community: this would include self-sacrifice for military objectives in wartime. Altruism is social behaviour and value orientation in which individuals give primary consideration to the interests and welfare of other individuals, members of groups or the community as a whole. In altruistic regard for others is the principle of action. Sociobiologists argue that altruistic behaviour has its roots in self-interest, the unconscious desire to protect one's genetic heritage. Critics of sociobiology respond that altruism is evident between individuals and in social situations where people are completely unrelated genetically and claim that human conduct and motivations cannot be explained without reference to the values and norms of culture.


The condition of slavery may make an individual feel that the only way to find escape is suicide. It would be fatalistic suicide because the individual considers himself condemned by fate or doomed to be a slave. A fatalistic situation calling for a fatalistic suicide as a solution or escape.

The category of fatalistic suicide was constructed mainly for purposes of symmetry (as contrasted with egoistic suicide) and because it would undercut his central claims about the role of modern urban life as increasing the incidence of suicide, Durkheim could never seriously examine the possibility that social integration could result in suicide. 

Fatalistic suicide served as a descriptor for suicides in traditional societies, because Durkheim was faced with the issue that even in societies with abundant social capital, individuals nevertheless killed themselves.