Suicide and Face: Suicides and Society in Japan from Goffman's Point of View

Monday, 16 July 2018: 16:30
Oral Presentation
Toshio SAKAMOTO, Nanzan University, Japan
In 1998, the number of people who committed suicide in Japan increased 1.35 times from the previous year. The high-rate of suicide continued for the next 14 years. This study analyzes this trend in terms of personal faces.
The term “face” was developed by Erving Goffman as a sociological concept; it is a key term in his studies. Although Goffman did not research suicides, he was influenced by the sociology of Émile Durkheim, author of Le Suicide.
Today, suicide is apt to be discussed in terms of solidarity, integration, or social capital. These perspectives arise under the influence of Durkheim's Le Suicide, written in the 19th century, and a valid question is whether these perspectives are currently relevant.
According to Christian Baudelot and Roger Establet, trends in suicides changed in the 20th century. Contrary to Durkheim's conclusion that excessive individualism increases suicides, Baudelot and Establet found that a type of individualism (creative individualism) developed in the 20th century and had the power to suppress suicide rates. Their study suggests that the framework of Le Suicide is not entirely applicable to contemporary suicide. This suggestion is very interesting and important, but these authors did not clarify the influence of social relationships on suicide rates.
This study examines suicide through Goffman' perspective, using it to clarify society’s influence on individuals. Goffman’s use of the term “face” is very important. This study suggests that contemporary suicide can be seen as a “face-loss” problem. From this point of view, the rapid increase of suicides in Japan can be related to its delayed transition to a gender-equal society: today, the faces of young people are seen as problematic.