Noah denkt™ -
Project for Philosophical Evaluations of the Economy
The correlation between unemployment and suicide
Dialogue with the Alter Ego on the prospects of successfully reinventing yourself, first drafted on Feb. 26,
published on Feb. 28, 2012
“… el paro de larga duración provoca el desprecio de uno mismo, la distancia respecto a (y a menudo de parte
de) los demás, la devaluación del estatus en el seno de la familia, la pérdida de confianza y el debilitamiento
en la competición social, la aceptación cada vez más resignada de la degradación de las condiciones de
vida. Lo más importante es el sentimiento de derelicción, esto es, de desamparo, abandono, inutilidad social,
que invade al ser humano así humillado. Lo más duro es el despertar diario sin nada que hacer; el vivir otro
día más el fracaso social, no ver el fin del túnel, el fin del ser nada. Lo más indigno es pedir ayuda, cobrar el
paro, cuando uno quiere trabajar."
Sami Naïr, Periodista y Comentarista
Question by Alter Ego of Noah denkt™ (AE): In a fantastic comment (“Crisis y Suicidios”, El País, Feb 25, 2012),
Sami Naïr alerts to the fact that the current rise of long-term unemployment in Europe will almost certainly lead to
a rise in the number of suicides. To demonstrate his point he cites a study by French psychiatrist Michel Debout,
which shows that the number of suicides in France has been going up ever since the financial/debt crisis broke in
2008. Before that it had been going down steadily from 1987-2008). Does Noah denkt™ agree that there is a
connection between a rise in the number of long term-unemployed and a rise in the number of suicides?
Answer by Noah denkt™ (Nd): There is undoubtedly a correlation between the two. The question however is,
whether one, i.e. the long-term unemployment, is the actual cause for the other, i.e. the number of suicides.
AE: In other words, you doubt that long term-unemployment has the depressive consequences that Marie Jahoda,
Paul Felix Lazarsfeld and Hans Zeisel elaborated in their ground-breaking study “The unemployed of Marienthal”
Nd: No, we do not doubt that long-term unemployment has the devastating effects mentioned in the quote above.
But it seems to us as if it is inadequate to say that unemployment actually causes suicides. Much rather does it
appear to us as if it is the unemployed’s perception that there is no way out of their current misery which is
causing them to consider suicide. In other words, the real reason why the long-term unemployed are more likely to
commit suicide is the fact that they find it quite impossible to professionally and commercially reinvent themselves
and be successful with that. Or, to put it even differently, it isn’t the downsizing as such which is at the heart of the
problem here, it is much rather our societies’ inability to welcome the new, to open up to the as yet non-
established and to give a fair hearing to those who haven’t yet been endorsed by the powers that are which is
making life difficult for those who find themselves marginalized.
AE: It is, obviously inevitable, especially in a mass society, that you need to be perceived as credible before credit
can be granted to you. And it is also inevitable that a lot of newcomers are being perceived as not credible
enough simply because they are what they are, i.e. newcomers. Does it, hence, make sense to question the
wisdom of that, when mass society really has no other option but to operate on the basis of circumstantial
evidence (“appearance”) when deciding whom to grant its favors?
Nd: Well, don’t you think that a society which supposedly operates on the basis of merit should find a way to
discover this merit even if the number of applications for that is extravagantly high?
AE: But don’t we all know that our societies are somewhat overselling themselves when they claim that they
reward only the best, the brightest and the most efficient? If that were really the case, we wouldn’t have such
things as financial bubbles, and we also wouldn’t have to deal with a debt crisis in the first place.
Nd: So, in your mind, there is no guarantee that quality will eventually impose itself no matter what the obstacles
are that are being put in its way?
AE: It may well be, that quality eventually imposes itself but it is highly questionable whether the creator of that
quality will actually live to see his work succeed.
Nd: Okay, you may have a point there although we ourselves would argue that the fast turnaround of our turbo-
market economy exponentially increases the chances for success even in your own lifetime. But, anyway, if we
can both agree that quality will eventually impose itself, should this then not be motivation enough for any
depressed long-term unemployed to actually go for it? In other words, should any long-term unemployed not
derive sufficient live saving inspiration from the fact that one day this newly developed, personal project of his will
get the recognition it deserves even though he himself may not live to see that day?
AE: Well, as you rightly stated, this “newly developed personal project of his” will get that recognition only if it does
reflect the kind of quality that can really impose itself. It is, however, by no means clear whether your average
unemployed plumber, your average unemployed carpenter, and your average unemployed storyteller can
produce that kind of quality.
Nd: So, what you’re really saying is that the average unemployed does not have any capabilities which can stand
on their own?
AE: That is probably true.
Nd: Well, if that is correct, and we doubt that, then the educational and vocational training system clearly is to be
blamed for not having taught anything that is worthwhile knowing. In other words, we, yet again cannot let the
system off the hook as gingerly as you have done this above.
Nd: So you agree with us then if we say that it isn’t unemployment as such which is to be blamed for the rise in
suicides but rather the lack of inspiration which reigns in our society in general?
AE: Well, if we agree to that then the question obviously is: How do you change that?
Nd: By going for this change! By doing what we do here! Don’t you consider that worth the while?
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unemployment and suicide, correlation between unemployment and suicide, reinvent yourself
professionally and commercially, Sami Naïr, financial crisis and suicides, correlation between
financial crisis and the number of suicides, connection between the financial crisis and the
number of suicides