Anomie Essay

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Crime has a substantial influence on everyday life. Theories for criminal behaviour are as old as the types of behaviours themselves. Amongst these theories is the idea of anomie. The sociological notion of anomie is used as a theoretical tool to understand the intersection of social structure, culture and criminal or deviant behaviour. Although the concept of anomie theory has varied between scholars, central to the different versions of anomie theory is the premise that human are normative beings; that people think and act on the basis of commonly held beliefs and traditions. Anomie theory was popularised by the classic works of Emile Durkheim and further explored by Robert K Merton. According to Durkheim, anomie refers to an environmental state where society fails to exercise adequate regulation or constraint over the goals and desires of its individual members. Conversely, Robert K Merton argued that, anomie is a strain between the goals set by society and the legitimate means of achieving them. Evidently, anomie perspectives are not a unified body of work. While Durkheim is considered the founder of classical anomie theory it changed profoundly in the hands of Merton. To understand the differences in these explanations of anomie it is important to understand the different approaches undertaken by Durkheim and Merton. Their theories of society were constructed from different contexts. It is through these different constructions that their use of the term anomie changed. Durkheim argues that specific features of industrial society, particularly in the sphere of economic activity, produce a chronic state of normative deregulation. As a result, valued goals become ill-conceived and the society fails to provide people with normati... ... middle of paper ... ... to say that looking for explanations of criminal behaviours is not important, just that one should be aware that different theoretical approaches may help explain certain types of criminal behaviours but not others. Durkheim’s and Merton’s use of the term anomie differed in one fundamental way; while Durkheim viewed anomie as the lack of rules to restrain society, Merton viewed anomie as the overregulation inhibiting attainment of culturally accepted goals. These differences stemmed from their different contexts and views on the use of the criminal. However, through the medium of anomie theory, both sociologists have attempted to explain crime through using the social structure of a society. Overall, anomie theory is successful in describing many middle class crimes but fails to explain why senseless crimes occur and why some people undertake crime whilst others
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