Robert Merton’s Theory of Anomie

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Robert Merton’s Theory of Anomie It is rightfully argued that crime, whether or not in a contemporary society, is an extremely complex and multi-faceted Phenomena that has puzzled academics for many years. Theories that aim to rationalise the causes of crime and understand the origin of criminal behaviour are often criticised for being too biased or deterministic in their research studies. Many have been of great influence and seen to explain (to an extent) the cause of crime but none has fully decoded the mystery of why people commit crime. Merton’s anomie theory aimed at explaining deviance from a sociological perspective as opposed to previous academic theories on crime and criminals. The first well known study of crime and criminals is that of one who is often referred to as the ‘father of criminology’, Cesar Lombroso. Lombroso’s argument was based around the Darwinian theory of human evolution and his theory argued that criminals were a throw back to an earlier period of human progression. In other words, they were less evolved humans, with visible physical features such as large ears and big lips. His theory suggested that criminals were born and not made therefore, where genetically prone to criminality. Merton’s argument was to the contrary. Rather than observing the individual criminal as being subhuman, he questioned societies influence on the individual. In his 1968 book, Merton argued that ‘it no longer appears to be so obvious that man is set against ... ... middle of paper ... ... Britain is of a much lower percentage in comparison to that of America thus Merton’s argument of the poor most likely to be criminal will not always fit the British society. It is therefore impractical to generalise Merton’s theory and force-fit it to all contemporary societies. However, his work has been very influential in both the policy making process and criminological theories both in Britain and around the western world. Merton’s theory does not explain all crime but it has great merit in the ones he attempts to explain. --------------------------------------------------------------------- [1] Merton. R-(1968) Social Theory and Social Structure. Chapt6 [2] Haralambos and Holborn 2002 [3] Merton. R 1968 [4] Hagedorn 1996 new perspective in criminology, chapter 13
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