Steven Merton's Theory Of Social Structure And Anomie Theory

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Merton disagreed with the theory that social problems such as crime arose from individuals. He said that The United States places extraordinary emphasis on economic success, holds this up as a universal goal for all to achieve and yet its social structure limits access to these goals through legitimate means. This disjuncture between the goals or desires, and the means of achieving them is what places large segments of the population in a state of anomie. While Durkheim theorised that for many the only escape from the uninterrupted and unappeased agitation is suicide, Merton argued that it merely produces an intense pressure for deviation. In this way Merton’s theory proposes that it is society and the way that it is structured that causes…show more content…
They took a macro perspective and looked at what was distinctive about the culture of American society. Returning to the basic concepts of sociology they pointed out that the core components of the social system were culture and social structure. These were central to Merton’s anomie theory, culture being the American Dream and social structure being differential opportunity. Messner and Rosenfeld also highlighted the importance of social institutions (institutional anomie theory). They felt Merton had focused on only one social institution – the economy – ignoring polity, legal systems, educations systems, family, and religion. America’s culture of prioritising wealth interferes with the ability of institutions to socialise individuals into healthy, law abiding roles, everything is secondary to financial success. By examining countries with different levels of decommodification they found that countries with low decommodification scores had high murder rates, this is consistent with institutional anomie theory. If a society is characterised by economic dominance it will have unusually high levels of serious crime. They suggest that if there was less of an emphasis on the economy and the other institutions were given a greater focus, other goals such as family, education, polity and serving the community were encouraged, crime rates could be lowered and…show more content…
These characteristics include coping skills such as problem solving skills, social skills, and negative emotionality. While Agnew’s extension of his general strain theory still requires that an individual experiences strain which is perceived as unjust and in circumstances conducive to criminal coping, there is now the additional factor of an individual’s characteristics which may determine whether they resort to criminal coping or

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