The Theory Of Crime And Social Structure

1305 Words6 Pages
To commit a crime or not to commit crime, a question that seems self-explanatory but is an ongoing struggle that appears in all societies. Sociologists look to explain this crime and deviance and have developed many theories as an explanation. The anomie theory was developed to explain crime and deviant behaviour in America, and the relationship between crime and social structure. Robert Merton was the leading sociologist in the development of the anomie theory and said crime occurred because there is a disjunction between society’s culturally set goals of success and the legitimate means of obtaining those goals. However, the legitimate means to obtain cultural success are not equal to everyone with emphasis on the inequality of ethnic and class groups. This put strain on people in society and Merton proposed five adaptions to this strain (conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism and rebellion). Conformist make up majority and accept society’s goals and legitimate means of obtaining them, innovators accept society’s goals but seek illegitimate means of obtaining success, ritualism is where individuals lower their goals to what they are able to obtain, retreatism is where the individual gives up on culturally defined goals and success, and finally rebellion is an extreme adaptation and it the desire to change/remove culturally defined goals and success. The anomie theory is simple way to explain crime and deviant behaviour in society but it is limited with weaknesses and can only successfully explain the crimes of the disadvantage. The theory has many weaknesses including trying to explain other aspects of crime such as crimes related to social groups and interactions, crimes unrelated to materialistic success, and ‘white c... ... middle of paper ... ...means to obtain that success. This results in the experience of strain often leading to deviance and crime. The cause of the disjunction for upper class individuals is not explained and is not the same as those individuals of the lower class. The key to this argument is economic strain, which is used as the centralised explanation of white collar crimes due to their nature (Agnew, Piquero, & Cullen, 2009). The anomie theory explains majority of why crime and deviant behaviour occurs but it the theory does have its weaknesses. For the majority it explains the link between crime and deviant behaviour with social disadvantages and if the means for achieving goals were equal for all members of society then crime and deviance would drop in rates but would not entirely disappear. However, the disjunction is what maintains and controls society so it is a double edge sword.
Open Document