The Contribution of Robert Merton’s Work to Criminological Theory

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Merton’s work has contributed greatly to criminological theory as he took a different perspective than Durkheim’s concept of anomie and reworked to the American context. The theories and concepts of anomie and strain that Merton argued have influenced the works of Cohen as well as the New Deviancy Theory and the New Penology. Therefore, Strain theory has evolved across time to encompass different situational circumstances of crime. Furthermore, due to the individual’s inability to achieve the appropriate cultural status, the idea of reference groups have also been highly relevant to today’s understanding of crime. Where evaluating oneself against peers constantly occurs as people try to better or compete against others. Durkheim was raised in France during the second half of the eighteenth century, a time when individuals were regulated through society’s collective conscience which was heavily reliant on religion, enlightenment, and Darwinism. It was also a time of great turmoil generated by the French revolution in 1789 and the industrialisation of society, which created the division of labour and specialisation between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie (Gold & Bernard, 1986). One of Durkheim’s key themes is centred on social solidarity, where the transition from mechanic solidarity and the collective conscience of the church became punctured leading to the rise of individualisation (organic solidarity). Durkheim theorized that if the desire for goals was boundless, anomie would ensue due to the lack of normative control, followed by the emergence of strain. The strain would manifest into a range of outcomes, one of which could be deviant behavior (Pfohl, 1994). As crime was an inevitable product of the strain produced by th... ... middle of paper ... ...obert Merton's social strain theory: Helpful in criminology, understanding anomie and deviance. Retrieved from http://www.suite101.com/ Niggli, M. (1994). Rational choice theory and crime prevention. Studies on Crime and Crime Prevention, 3, 83-103. O’Connor, T. (2006). Conflict criminology. Retrieved from http://www.drtomoconnor.com/ Pfohl, Stephen. (1994). Images of deviance and social control: A sociological history. (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill. Pratt, J. (2007). Penal populism. London: Routledge Shoemaker, D. (2010). Theories of delinquency: An examination of explanations of delinquent behaviour (6th ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. Sztompk, P. (1986). Robert K. Merton: An intellectual profile. Houndmills, U.K.: Macmillan. Walters, R., & Bradley, T. (2008). Introduction to criminological thought. Auckland, New Zealand: Pearson Education.

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