Robert Merton’s Work and Criminological Theory Essay

Robert Merton’s Work and Criminological Theory Essay

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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, 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 the alienation and dissatisfaction concurrent in the deregulation of society, anomie was therefore representative of suicide and the division of labour.

Merton’s upbringing in Philadelphia and the events that occurred during his writing influenced his take on anomie (Evans, 2006-2009). The Great Depression and the influx of immigrants into America during the nineteenth century turned the land of opportunity into desperation. Nonetheless, Merton came to the similar conclusion of Durkheim’s that deviance was a product of societal structures (Sztompka, 1986). However, because Merton was a middle-range functionalist, he questioned and furthered Durkheim’s concept of anomie from a different perspective. He looked at the smaller problems and tied it to greater so...


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...rieved from http://www.criminology.fsu.edu/crimtheory/merton.htm
Gold, G. & Bernard, T. (1986). Theoretical criminology. New York: Oxford University Press.

Hunt, M. (1961, January 28). How does it come to be so? Profile of Robert K. Merton. The New Yorker, pg. 39–63.

Johnson, D. (1981). Sociological theory: Classical founders and contemporary perspectives. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Merton, R. K. (1938). Social structure and anomie. American Sociological Review 3, 672-682.

Morine, N. (2009). Sociology – Robert Merton's social strain theory: Helpful in criminology, understanding anomie and deviance. Retrieved from http://www.suite101.com/
Pfohl, Stephen. (1994). Images of deviance and social control: A sociological history. (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Sztompk, P. (1986). Robert K. Merton: An intellectual profile. Houndmills, U.K.: Macmillan

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