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…show more content…
This deludes the less powerful into conforming to a social order that works against their best interests, and results in the poor being driven to commit crime and thus be defined as deviant and criminal (O’Connor, 2006). To complement his theory, Merton established five modes of adaptation of how an individual responds to the schism between societal goals and means. The constructed ‘American Dream’ ideal links with strain and the issue of inequality, as it can lead individuals to attain the culturally accepted goals through illegitimate means that violate social norms (Cuzzort, 1969). The first reaction is Conformity, where the individual subscribes to the goal and the conventional means of society, and therefore does not generate anomie (Morine, 2009). The second is Ritualism, where the goals are not accepted as they do not believe they can reach them, but the means are abided. The failure of ritualists to conform fully to the ideal of success translated though money means this could trigger anomie (Morine, 2009). Thirdly, Innovation involves the goals being accepted but the methods to attain them are rejected. This reaction would most likely involve illegitimate methods to reach the goals. Retreatism is the fourth, where the refusal of both societal goals and means occur, however this is not regarded as anomie as they do not illicit contradictory norms. Lastly, Rebellion furthers Retreatism by substituting new goals and institutional means to create a more
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