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Revisiting Durkheim

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Black Panther à côté dun Space Invader géant - Rue Emilie Durkheim

Black Panther à côté d’un Space Invader géant – Rue Emilie Durkheim: yoyolabellut / Lionel via Flickr

Here’s an essay I wrote as an enthusiastic (and pretty naive) undergraduate in the 1980s at Trent University: Emile Durkheim’s Theory of Egoistic Suicide.

I converted it to PDF in 2009. Since then I’ve picked up a better scanner, so I might try redoing it some day. But this copy is legible.

The essay was written on my very first computer, an Atari. It was one of the first PCs to hit the market, replete with an external floppy drive (those big, old floppies) and a modified wheel printer. A portable b&w TV from my parents’ kitchen served as my monitor.

I remember deciding to shell out $500 for that Atari and sort of tricking my professors because the printer looked like I’d typed the papers out when, in fact, I hadn’t. Hee hee. Most computers back then, you see, had early generation (lousy quality) dot matrix printers, and professors hated grading work printed on them. Some even refused to accept papers printed by dot matrix.

My Atari was a great investment because for the first time in my life, I could word process without having to use whiteout or cut and paste real paper. And I could also play space invaders at home! ;-)

The paper, itself, is an analytical assessment of Émile Durkheim‘s pioneering theory on suicide. My professor was excellent, and very British. So I guess I semi-consciously let loose the UK roots within my Canadian personality, hoping to connect. (Looking back, I can see that I wrote differently for my Canadian, American and European professors, already developing a flexible writing style.)

On the theoretical side, I remember being impressed at how Durkheim looked at European demographics to try to understand suicide as a social phenomenon, just as social psychologists, advertisers and researchers examine data today. But like any thinker, old or new, Durkheim had his limitations…

Feel free to mention this – and the ideas it contains – in university and college assignments. Be sure to use one of the standard online citation styles if you do.

» Emile Durkheim’s Theory of Egoistic Suicide

—MC

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