Crime Theory: The Anomie Theory

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To commit a crime or not to commit crime, a question that seems self-explanatory but is an ongoing struggle that appears in all societies. Sociologists look to explain this crime and deviance and have developed many theories as an explanation. The anomie theory was developed to explain crime and deviant behaviour in America, and the relationship between crime and social structure. Robert Merton was the leading sociologist in the development of the anomie theory and said crime occurred because there is a disjunction between society’s culturally set goals of success and the legitimate means of obtaining those goals. However, the legitimate means to obtain cultural success are not equal to everyone with emphasis on the inequality of ethnic and…show more content…
This theory places the individual into a box where the individual internalises everything. The individual in their box has culturally defined goals, their personal means to obtain these goals, the strain placed upon them from the disjunction between the society’s goals and their means. The strain on the individual leads to their selection of one of five adaptions without taking into consideration the individuals reaction to the strain of other individuals and groups and their interaction with the individual (Cohen, 1965). This is prominent in individuals who are members of social groups, such as members of church or religious groups, as the individual’s reaction to their personal strain is heavily influenced by their social interaction with the group. Individuals who are members of religious groups are unlikely to lean towards deviance and crime due to the conflict with their belief system and their connection with the groups, although it is not uncommon but these crimes due to be crimes not associated with strain, while individuals without that strong relationship with a social group are more likely to associate with deviance and crime. Furthermore, the anomie theory fails to look at the relationship between individuals and groups when it comes to deviant and criminal behaviour. Individuals are more likely to engage in joyriding, vandalism or violent behaviour when placed in a group. With the influence of peer pressure on individuals and normalisation being an important central factor in an individual’s likelihood to be deviant, the anomie theory is not taking into account a critical piece of the puzzle. The neglecting of other individuals and groups experiences when looking at the anomie theory means the that it’s not considering these experiences, whether conforming or deviant, and how they could
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