Since the beginning of mankind criminality has been a major problem and the most debated topic of interest by theorist on the grounds of why crime is committed, who is more prone to commit crime, and what prevents people from committing delinquent acts. The formulation of the Stain theory and Anomie Theory by Robert Merton give insight on the many question left unanswered about the reason for criminality. The Strain Theory decodes the mechanics of crime committed as being social structures in any given society pressuring its citizens to commit crime.
This theory states that lower class frustrations of not having the means to reach legitimate goals turn to illegitimate means in critical times. Merton’s Theory of Anomie also which falls under the Strain Theory in that class oriented societies of how factors such as race, class, ethnicity, gender, and age is linked to inequality in terms of money, power, education, and social prestige. This research increases our understanding of such causes of deviant behavior and hopefully finds innovative ways to diagnose and deter crime.
The structural functionalist perspective by Emile Durkheim introduced the term anomie in which, Robert Merton also related his crime problem to anomie, thus formulation the strain theory. Robert Merton model of anomie and social arrangement has been willingly accepted as a helpful hypothesis, for the study of deviant crimes and behaviors. Merton argues that in a class oriented society opportunities to get to the top are not evenly distributed, and people take on deviant behaviors when the two factors of structural institutionalized means and cultural aspirations come into play.
The structural factor plays a huge role in strains in which, there are unequal opportunities for the individuals in the society to succeed. To better understand how structural factors play its role in deviant behaviors, we must know how inequality in social structure is related to crime. Any social structure that benefits some members of society at the expense of others is guaranteed to create delinquency. Certain structural values dominate a society due to a society system of economic production.
A capitalist economy creates materialism, which a society’s system of material production has an authoritative effect on the rest of the culture. The culture of capitalism teaches us that rich and powerful people work long and hard than others and deserve their wealth and privileges. It also encourages societies that capitalism is natural, discouraging individuals from trying to reduce economic inequality. Now, knowing how inequality in social structure is related to crime it can be implied that the strains of inequality turns into unlawful acts and movement for social change.
For example the civil rights movement sought greater equality, which is the rebellion mode of adaptation by Robert Merton strain theory, when both the cultural goals and the legitimate means are rejected leading to revolutionary activity. Structural systems do not address human needs equally, allowing some to dominate others. This inequality in turn generates pressure on the individual to meet the status quo of the society. The second is cultural aspirations, which put a strong emphasis on success goal and weaker emphasis on using legal means to obtain success.
In the majority of cultural society’s success is measured in how big your home is, the luxury cars you drive and the clothes you were in a capitalist society. An individual is condition to think that without all these material things mentioned he or she is not successful and they are not given the equal opportunity or legitimate means to get them. Therefore, creating Robert Merton mode of adaptation of the innovator, which are individual who accept society’s goals but because they have few legal means of achieving them they design their own means of getting ahead.
For example an individual who is unable to get a job goes the illegal route of selling drugs to achieve success in society is a innovator. Structural and cultural factors make understanding the strain of an individual to create deviant acts a whole lot easier. Robert Merton was born in 1910 in Philadelphia to immigrant parents. Throughout his childhood he lived in a slum but he was a bright and intelligent kid who frequently visited the library and was also part of a gang, when they were not as dangerous as they are today.
He received a scholarship to Temple University and became very fascinated with sociology and society’s effect on individuals. This could be explained due to the period of time in the United States he experienced WWI, immigration due to the roaring twenties, the Great Depression and WWII, which could have affected his workings of his anomie theory today. He later went to graduate school at Harvard University where he read up on Emile Durkheim. “He believed that individuals possessed an unlimited appetite of aspirations and it was up to society to regulate such an appetite.
According to Durkheim appetites were regulated through the common morals and beliefs of the society. However, if this mechanism failed anomie would occur. An anomie state would unleash individual limitless appetites that could result in a variety of deviant behaviors. ” It was after reading this Merton decided to discover what produces anomie. The father of criminology Emile Durkheim wrote about the normality of crime in a society. He believed the reason for human behavior and human misbehavior relies not only in the individual but in the group and social organization.
Durkheim introduced the term anomie, which is a social condition where dysfunctions occurs and a collapse of social values due to rapid change. He believed living with weak moral values, people in the society can become self-centered placing their own needs above others. This is the effect of social change in which, an uncomplicated society develops into a more modern urbanized one that the understanding to maintain a common set of norm decreases. Groups begin to clash with one another due to the absence of a common set of rules steadily breaking down the system creating anomie within the society.
American sociologist Robert Merton added his own perception of anomie further elaborating it as a cause of delinquent behavior different from Durkheim but similar in the functionalist perspective. Robert Merton differs from Durkheim, which the problem is not created by unexpected social change but by a social system that puts a strong emphasis on goal for all its societal members without equally giving them the means to achieve them. In a class oriented society opportunities to be successful are not equally distributed among they society.
His anomie/strain theory emphasizes the importance of two elements of cultural aspirations and institutionalized means. Cultural aspirations are a cherished desire to achieve the goals believed worth striving for. Institutionalized means are the widely accepted ways to obtain the desired ends to reach that goal. These two elements are important to the proper function and stability equally allowing individuals to reach their goals with legitimate means. Disproportion between the goals and the means creates dissatisfaction leading to strain. Wide disparities in income among various classes can explain some strain individuals face.