Sociological Theories of Deviance:
Robert K. Merton’s
“Social Structure and Anomie”
Robert King Merton (1910-2003)
Robert De Witt
March 1, 2012
What happens when society places the success goal ahead of all else, relates monetary or materialistic possessions as a sign of that success and as a means of measuring self-worth, yet the social structure blocks some from attaining the very means to acquire those monetary or materialistic possessions? According to the anomie or strain theory of deviance, what may happen is a loss of faith in the prescribed institutional norms for obtaining success goals and a possible tendency to violate social norms in a deviant manner in order to obtain them.
ORIGINS OF THE CONCEPT OF ANOMIE
Emile Durkheim (1858-1917), the French sociologist and philosopher, long considered to be one of the founders of modern sociology, is credited with developing the concept of the environmental condition of “anomie.” Durkheim (, 1960, 1951) used the term anomie to describe a loss of regulatory social controls, an absence of clear societal norms and values. According to Durkheim (, 1960, 1951), a state of anomie exists where society fails to exercise adequate regulation or constraint over the goals and desires of its individual members. In Durkheim’s opinion, the well-being and happiness of individuals was dependent on society’s ability to restrain unlimited passions and appetites. In a state of anomie, without the regulatory and disciplinary influences of society, wrote Durkheim (1951), the individual aspires to everything and is satisfied with nothing. Durkheim (1951) believed that it was this dissatisfaction with life, resulting from a condition of anomie that was responsible for the high rates of suicide in certain places.
ORIGINS OF THE ANOMIE OR STRAIN THEORY OF DEVIANCE