Robert Merton's Anomie Theory

821 Words4 Pages
According to Bernard, Snipes and Gerould (2010), Robert K. Merton adopted Emile Durkheim’s anomie theory, which Durkheim defined as the breakdown of social norms or rules, as a result of rapid social changes. In other words, anomie refers to a breakdown in the ability of society to regulate the natural appetites of individuals (Bernard et. al., 2010). Merton, however, argued that many of the appetites of individuals are not natural, instead, they are a product of American society. As stated by Bernard et. al. (2010), the culture of any society defines certain goals that it deems worth striving for. In American society, that goal is to acquire wealth. As implied by the concept of the American Dream, American society encourages individuals to pursue wealth through the idea of meritocracy, and egalitarian, or the notion that all people have an equal chance to achieve wealth (p. 155), thus, anyone can become successful with hard work, and determination.…show more content…
In American society, middle-class values are identified as the institutionalized means that should be used to achieve wealth (Bernard et. al., 2010). Middle-class values emphasize honesty, education and deferred gratification (p. 155). Central to strain theory is the idea that society puts great pressure on individuals to achieve wealth, but fails to equally provide legitimate opportunities of obtaining wealth or success. As noted by the authors, legitimate opportunities were relatively concentrated in the higher classes and relatively absent in the lower classes (Bernard et. al., 2010). When a person fails to achieve wealth or success, or if he or she is poor, that person may be regarded as lazy. Thus meritocracy functions as safeguard, shielding society from assuming responsibility for social problems and blocked opportunities facing the lower
Open Document