Anomie/Strain Theory Historical Background
The theoretical framework of strain theory can be credited to sociologist Emile Durkheim. Durkheim research on formed a platform for other sociologist to further develop strain theories of crime. One of which is Robert Merton. One of Durkheim’s major works that opened the door to further research on strain theories was his book, Suicide. In this book Durkheim sough to understand the why led to one’s own self-destruction. Emile Durkheim studied suicide rates and its association with crisis. Durkheim noticed trends in suicide rates that were associated with economic prosperity and economic crisis.
“According to Durkheim, the state of normlessness that people find themselves in as a result of a crisis is referred to as anomie.” (Paternoster, Bachman, 2001, p.142) Anomie occurs when one is put in an uncomfortable position because of goals not being met. Anomie can occur during times of financial crisis, death, or family crisis. Durkheim also looked at the difference in suicide rates amongst Catholics and Protestants. He found that suicide rates were higher amongst Protestants than Catholics. In Durkheim’s finding in studying suicide rates he came up with a model for anomie/strain. His model says that strain causes anomie, which in turn causes an individual to want to commit suicide or other deviant acts.
Development of Anomie Strain Theory
Sociologist Robert K. Merton picked up on Durkheim’s concepts of anomie and strain to develop his own perspective. He is most credited for the development of this theory. Merton based his version of the theory on the fact that American society puts its value in material wealth and that all people should strive to attain material wealth. “In Merton’s view, American society is just such a malintegrated and anomic society because we do emphasize goal attainment far more than we emphasize using the approved or correct means to attain goals, such as through education and hard work.” (Paternoster, Bachman, 2001, 144) In Merton’s model of the anomie/strain theory he says that anomie causes strain, which in turn causes crime and deviance. The difference in Durkheim and Merton’s model of the theory is Durkheim’s model puts emphasis on the failure to regulate the goals and Merton’s model puts emphasis on the failure to regulate the means.
In Merton’s version of the anomie/strain theory he pointed out five adaptations to strain: conformity, innovation, rebellion, ritualism, and retreatism. Conformity means that one accepts both the goal and the means. They may try to attain the goals with limited means. This adaptation is most common in society. Innovation means that one accepts the goals but rejects the means. This individual has a “by any means necessary” attitude when it comes to the attainment of goals. Rebellion means that one rejects both the means and the goals. They may substitution those goals and means with their own goals and means. Ritualism means that one rejects the...