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a collective conscience such that the individual becomes an indistinguishable part of the collective whole

Explanation of Egoism and Egoistic Suicide

We can now look more closely at the causes of egoism and egoistic suicide. Simply stated, egoistic suicide results from the absence of social integration and a weakening of the bonds which attach individuals to groups outside themselves. It occurs when the links binding the individual to the wider society grow weak and when individual goals rely more on themselves and withdraw their allegiance from collective life. Durkheim gives the name egoism to this state because it identifies a condition in society in which the individual ego prevails over the social ego.

The religious, familial and political groups have a moderating effect on egoistic suicide because they share the common property of being strongly integrated and thus constitute links to society. The weaker the bonds attaching individuals to these groups, the less they depend upon them and the more they depend on themselves. In this view, egoism is the result of the weakening of bonds which tie the individual to society.

Durkheim believed that individuals, by nature, cannot live without attachment to some object which trascends them. Egoism thus attacks social bonds in at least two fundamental ways. First, by eroding the common bonds linking the individual to society, egoism makes private life a dominant aim and this acts to defeat collective purpose. Egoism is in this sense, a state in which society is completely lacking in an individual. Second, egoism promotes withdrawal from everything external, and when this occurs, society allows the individual to escape its hold. As a consequence, when individuals become detached from society, they encounter less resistance to suicide. In egoistic suicide, therefore, the bond attaching individuals to life relaxes because the bond attaching them to society is slack.



Morrison, K. (1995) Marx, Durkheim, Weber: formations of modern social thought. pp. 167-173
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