ANOMIE THEORY Sociology Help


The concept of anomie was developed by Durkheim [1897]. The term translates roughly as "normlessness." It describes a society which has many conflicting . sets of norms and values. No one set is strongly enough held and widely enough accepted to be very binding. The anomie society lacks consistent guidelines for people to learn; the anomie person has internalized no clear guidelines to follow. Merton [1938] theorized that anomie also develops from the disharmony between cultural goals and the institutionalized means of attaining them. He notes that while our so ciety encourages all its members to aspire to wealth and social position, our approved ways of reaching these goals enable only a few to succeed. True, an exceptional poor boy or girl reaches wealth and fame, and these exceptions keep alive the myth of equal opportunity. The youth of average abilities and no special opportunities or "connections" has very little chance of becoming rich and famous. Many who. see little real chance of succeeding by following the rules may then violate them. As Merton concludes:

Deviance becomes widespread, then, when many 'people turn from approved to disapproved means of seeking.success. But there
are. several, responses to the' goals-means choices which Merton outlines [1957a, pp. .140-157], as shown in Table 7-1. (1) Conformity is an acceptance of both the-conventional goals and the conventional, institutionalized means of seeking them. (2) Innovation is an attempt to attain conventional goals through unconventional means (including illicit or criminal means). (3) Ritualism preserves the institutionalized means, which have become ends in themselves, as goals are largely ignored or forgotten. The rituals, ceremonies, and routines are followed, but the original meanings or functions have become lost. (4) Surrealism abandons both conventional goals and the institutionalized means for attaining  them as illustrated by most of the advanced alcoholics, drug addicts, hippies, skid-row habitues, hermits, and other dropouts. (5) Rebellion involves it retreat from the conventional goals and means, with an attempt to .institutionalize a new system of goals and means. Revolutionists are an illustration. Merton's theory nicely fits many deviants. especially the poor and disadvantaged. ut deviation also appears among the well-born and successful. The radical activism amp g college students in the 196Os' co Id hardly be attributed to "lack of opportunity" forlorn conventional success. Merton's analysis also does not explain while-collar crime or sex deviations. It is ingenious but incomplete: Chomsky and Paschal' [19651 suggest that noiselessness may be simply one aspect of a negative and distrustful outlook on life and society. They present evidence that nominate appears not only among Merton's frustrated failures but also among the highly successful. They find that-persons who score high on anomie scales also show high scores for hostility, anxiety, pessimism, authoritarianism, political cynicism, and other symptoms of alienation.

The concept of alienation is more inclusive than anomie. Although definitions vary, most sociologists follow Seeman's defmition which includes the components 04 power endlessness meaninglessness formlessness isolation and estrangement [Seeman, 1,969; Johnson, 1973, p. 16; Geyser, 1980, pp. 16-29]. The alienated person not only has no fully internalized system of binding norms but also {eels like a powerless, helpless victim .If a heedlessly impersonal social system in which he or she has no real' place. The alienated person has few group affiliations or institutional loyalties. Alienation is therefore an almost total emotional separation from one's society. Marxist scholars stress the concept of alienation, holding that capitalist society inevitably alienates its workers and even its intellectuals because of its isolation of workers from control over work policies, work conditions, or managerial decisions Blauner 1964; Kon 1969  Anderson, 1974]. Such alienation weakens the binding power of traditional norms and controls, and thus encourages deviant behavior. Marxist analysts see' increasing alienation as a symptom of the approaching end for capitalism. Whether alienation is actually increasing is difficult to know, for we have no clear historical baselines for comparison.

Posted on September 2, 2014 in SOCIAL ORDER AND SOCIAL CONTROL

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