Durkheim Did Not Say “Normlessness”

In: Social Issues

Submitted By leeroy
Words 8240
Pages 33
SOUTHERN RURAL SOCIOLOGY, 24(1), 2009, pp. 200–222.
Copyright © by the Southern Rural Sociological Association


The definitions of anomic suicide presented in introductory sociology textbooks from 1996 to 2007 were compared with the definition given by Durkheim in his own writings both in the original French and the
English translation. It was found that only one textbook correctly gave Durkheim’s own definition while the other definitions showed little or no relationship to the original concept. The original concept was based on an analysis of the economy, more particularly the business cycle, and refers only to the structure of society and not to the mental state of the individual. An attempt is made to discover the source of such a widespread and well-accepted error.

All of us are concerned about the introductory course in sociology, no matter the august reaches of academe we might have attained. Nearly all of us have taught it at least once, if only as teaching assistants during our graduate school days. Some of us always teach it. The rest depend on it as a basis for their advanced courses, for a supply of research assistants, and ultimately to build public appreciation and support for the field. If we think of the number of students who take introductory sociology in just one small college in one semester, let alone in a major university over many years, we can easily appreciate the influence that these courses have on our discipline. All of us have an interest in the quality of introductory course instruction, including the accuracy of material in the textbooks used in these courses. Between 1973 and 2003, Teaching Sociology published eleven articles whose

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