SOCY 275 Midterm: SOCY 275 Topic 4-6

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TOPIC 4 – ANOMIE THEORY
ORIGINS OF ANOMIE THEORY
Emile Durkheim
oAnomie: “normlessness” – no social regulation
oAnomie in the Division of Labour in Society
oDiscovered anomie in his study of suicide
Robert Mertonlack of integration between goals + methods
oSocial Structure and Anomie
Deviance is a product of the way society is put together
Cultural structure out of sync with social structure causes pressure on
people
oStrain theory: strain resulted from the interplay of three elements
Cultural goals – especially the goals of success
Institutionalized means of goal attainment – especially inherited
wealth/education
Actual distribution of the means of goal attainment – how you go
about seeking those goals
oArgued that deviance = problem solving behaviour
People explore deviant solution when society presents them with
problems for which conformist solutions are not available
These problems are most acute in lower social classes because it is
there that people are more likely to experience the disjuncture
between the things they aspire to vs what is actually available to
them
Such circumstances create a social condition known as anomie
Goals Means Example
Conformist Working hard for good grades
Innovator ✓ ✗ Bank robber
Ritualist ✗ ✓ Bureaucrats
Retreatist ‘Dropping out’ / Adopting
unconventional lifestyles
Rebel or ✓ ✗ or ✓ ✗ Replacing current cultural goals and
means with new ones
oCriticisms
Does not explain why people near the top of the class structure
engage in high levels of corporate/professional crime
Most people who may lack access to legitimate means to cultural
goals are not criminal
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The theory seems better suited to explaining instrumental/rational
deviance rather than expressive-emotional deviance
It is unclear if as much cultural uniformity exists in complex societies
like ours
Albert Cohen – merge of Merton + Sutherland
oFocused on the origins + content of subculture of the male juvenile offender
oCohen believed that a great deal of juvenile crime was rooted in the
attempts on the part of disadvantaged youth to resolve the problems their
social worlds presented to them
Such youth aspired to middle-class status
Such status is often denied to them by social institutions
School is an institutions organized in terms of middle class
criteria, rewarding/punishing according to the degree to which
youth conform to/deviate from middle class standards
Causes status anxiety which often leads to frustration +
feelings of inadequacy
One way of solving these problems is by rejecting outright the middle
class value system which rejects them – self-evaluation or self-
rejection group support/sympathy
E.g. gang delinquency tend to have a “in-your-face” quality +
no specific goals or means of achieving them
Each individual contributes to/receives support from the
subculture which celebrates delinquent values + turns middle
class values on their heads
Cloward + Ohlin – merge of Merton + Sutherland
oExpanded on Merton’s ideas in an effort to explain lower class gang
delinquency
oAgreed that juvenile crime was prompted by the inability of lower class youth
to achieve the things that their culture encouraged them to seek, but
suggested that there was a need to explain why different kinds of
delinquent behaviour patterns emerge in indifferent types of
neighbourhoods
o3 specific kinds of delinquent adaptations
the Criminal Pattern: instrumental delinquency activities –
delinquency for gain, in which those involved sought to generate
illegal profits
Most likely to develop in well-organized but poor
neighbourhoods (well-organized adult criminal world)
High level of integration between criminal + noncriminal
worlds
These kind of conditions provide a stable setting in which
delinquency for gain can flourish
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