Anomie Theory

"Social Structure and Anomie" (Robert Merton 1938)

Goals (Culture) vs. Opportunities (Social Structure)

Five Adaptations

Conformity; Innovation; Retreatist; Ritualist; Rebellion

Policy Implications?

a. Reduce aspirations.

b. Increase access to legitimate opportunities

Kennedy's Juvenile Delinquency Prevention and Control Act (1961)

Johnson's War on Poverty


General Strain Theory (Robert Agnew)

An extension of Merton's anomie theory.

In addition to failure to achieve economic goals, adolescent strain can result from:

Empirical studies support GST.

Differential Opportunity Theory (Please review reading for this)

(Cloward and Ohlin)

A combination of Merton's anomie theory and Sutherland's differential association.

Three Subcultures: Criminal; Conflict; Retreatist

Discussion Question

Describe the "cultural goals" and "institutional norms" that exist at your school. Are these goals and norms in "balance"? Describe the "adaptations" that individuals might employ when they cannot achieve the cultural goals emphasized at your school. What factors do you think determine whether individuals will choose adaptations that may involve crime, like innovation? What policy recommendations might Merton make for controlling crime?

Robbery Rates and Anomie.

How can we measure or operationalize anomie?

Do we find support for Merton's anomie theory?