Anomie Theory

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Anomie theory is important for explaining whether crime is a normal or abnormal (pathological) social phenomenon (Cartwright, 2011). It describes a lack of social norms, lawlessness and normlessness (Cartwright, 2013). In detail, it is a breakdown of social bonds between an individual and the community. This theory was first coined by Emile Durkheim, a French sociologist in his book Suicide published in 1897 (Cartwright, 2013). Later on, Robert Merton, the President of American Sociological Association, developed the link between anomie and social structure. Unlike Durkheim, Merton used the notion from Durkheim’s anomie theory and explains that social structure could exert pressure on an individual and directly cause deviance (Cartwright,…show more content…
This illegitimacy adjustment as the major concern involves two features (Merton, 1938). Firstly, such antisocial behavior “by certain conventional values of the culture and by the class structure involving differential access to the approved opportunities for legitimate, prestige-bearing pursuit of the culture goal” (Merton, 1938, p.27). Secondly, it is the consideration of equal significance. Because of the limitation of legitimate effort, for those individuals with formal education and few economic resources, success is hard to get (Merton, 1938). In addition, Merton declared that the theory he studied was incomplete, since various structural elements were neglected; for example, “the relevance of cultural conflict for an analysis of culture-goal and institutional-means malintegration” has not yet been examined, and “the social function performed by illicit responses” has also been omitted (Merton, 1938, p.30). As for Steven Messner and Richard Rosenfeld (1995), their study, known as the institutional-anomie theory, focused more on how criminal behavior is affected institutionally, such as by schools, churchs or companies. Messner and Rosenfeld declared that criminology has overly focused on analyzing the behavior of individuals, such as mental illness, but paid less attention on how social organization and
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