Strain Theory Anomie Research Paper

Pages: 5 (1432 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sociology

Anomie/Strain Theory and Race

Introduction to Anomie and Strain Theory of Social Deviance

Nineteenth century social theorist Emile Durkheim proposed the theory of Anomie to describe the manner in which comparative alienation from society and relative lack of social and economic opportunity leads to feelings of despair and hopelessness and to the rejection of the predominant social norms, value, and expectations of society on the part of the individual (

Henslin, 2008; Macionis, 2007; Schmalleger, 2009). According to Durkheim, sense of purposelessness and despair is a function of the self-perception of being out of synch with society and contributes further to distancing the individual from society (Henslin, 2008; Macionis, 2007; Schmalleger, 2009).

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Subsequently, 20th century social theorist Robert Merton proposed refinements to Durkheim's Anomie Theory. Specifically, Merton proposed that modern human societies always feature values, themes, and goals by which individuals are judged by others and by which they establish a positive sense of self-worth or self-esteem (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2009). Therefore, the more in synch the individual is with the predominant goals and values expected in society, the more connected the individual will be to the community and the greater the social and economic opportunities available to the individual the more likely the individual is to adhere to societal values, expectations, and rules. Much of Merton's early work followed the Great Depression and reflected his attempt to explain the increasing crime rate, particularly among people who had previously been law-abiding citizens (Henslin, 2008; Macionis, 2007; Schmalleger, 2009).

Research Paper on Strain Theory Anomie Assignment

Merton suggested that every society promotes certain goals and objectives by which it expects individuals to achieve success; when those goals become less achievable or less realistically available, the result is a reduction of adherence to the norms and values promoted by society (Henslin, 2008; Macionis, 2007). Merton outlined the importance of conventional opportunities by which individuals in society know that they can improve their circumstances, as well as the manner in which the perceived lack of opportunities causes psychological strain and frustration. According to Merton, this strain and frustration is often expressed as specific modes of adaptation, such as through retreating from society even more, active rebellion, and criminal deviance as an alternative means for achieving some of the goals denied by the relative lack of opportunity (Schmalleger, 2009).

Toward the end of the 20th century, Robert Agnew expanded Merton's Strain theory by proposing that it applied to much more than merely economic opportunities (Agnew, 1992; Broidy, 2001). Rather, Agnew suggested that strain operates as much on a micro level on every individual as well as on groups of individuals; that many criteria besides financial opportunities (such as perceptions about social acceptance, respect, and inclusion in social institutions) contributed to strain; and that the negative consequences resulting from strain ranged from relatively benign behaviors (such as overeating or social withdrawal) to overt rebellion against authority and criminal deviance (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2009; Schmalleger, 2009). Furthermore, Agnew proposed that strain results from several specific sources: the failure to achieve socially promoted desirable goals; the acute loss of valued stimuli (including the death of close relatives or the loss of a job); and regular exposure to negative environmental stimuli such as crime, abuse, or social ostracism by others (Henslin, 2008; Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2009).

Anomie, Strain, Social Deviance, Criminality, and Race

The broadened concept of Anomie and Strain Theory offer insight into the manner in which racism in society may contribute to social deviance and to the development of criminal inclinations among minority populations. In theory, racism is a direct cause of reduced opportunities to achieve financial and professional success, high social status, and the achievement or satisfaction of many of the goals promoted throughout society (Henslin, 2008; Macionis, 2007). The fact that minority racial status has long been associated with comparatively less opportunity for upward social mobility, professional achievement, and financial success is well established in empirical literature (Agnew, 1992; Agnew & Brezina, 1997; Broidy, 2001). To the extent racial identity negatively influences the ability of individuals to succeed in society, it contributes to Anomie as described by Merton (Agnew, 1992; Agnew & Brezina, 1997; Broidy, 2001). As a result, minority group members may give up the hope of achieving success in the manner measured by the predominant culture; alternatively, they may resort to alternative ways of pursuing… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Strain Theory Anomie" Research Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Strain Theory Anomie.  (2011, October 21).  Retrieved February 23, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Strain Theory Anomie."  21 October 2011.  Web.  23 February 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Strain Theory Anomie."  October 21, 2011.  Accessed February 23, 2020.