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Anomie and Strain Emile Durkheim and Robert Merton

Anomie and Strain Emile Durkheim and Robert Merton

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Anomie and Strain Emile Durkheim and Robert Merton

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  1. Anomie and StrainEmile Durkheim and Robert Merton Understanding Criminology 11th November 2008

  2. Lecture Outline • Emile Durkheim • Functionalism • Crime as normal • Anomie • Robert Merton • Strain • Adaptations

  3. Emile Durkheim • 1858-1917 • Early pioneer of sociology • Positivist • Functionalist • Macro-level sociology

  4. Social cohesion • How could society hold together during a period of fundamental and rapid social and economic change?

  5. Functionalism • Societies should be analysed as a organic whole: each aspect of society should be analysed with reference to its function for society as a whole • Society is essentially consensual • As deviance was universal across all societies, it must have a function: crime is normal

  6. Crime is normal • What function can crime have to society as a whole? • Crime, and the reaction to it: • Reinforced collective sentiment • "Crime brings together upright consciences and concentrates them"  • Defined the boundaries of acceptable behaviour • “We must not say that an action shocks the common consciousness because it is criminal, but rather that it is criminal because it shocks the common consciousness” • Represented a litmus test for legal codes

  7. Functional Analysis of Deviance • Example: prostitution (Kingsley Davis, 1937) • Prostitution: a safety valve against sexual frustration leading to assault • Prostitution is functional to the nuclear family • Adultery would threaten an essential societal institution • Stigmatisation (informal disapproval) of prostitution confirms the collective approval of monogamy

  8. Pathological levels of crime? • Too little crime? • Social control is too excessive • Social stagnation • Too much crime? • Society’s capacity to regulate is being swamped: social cohesion is at risk • There is, therefore, a functionally desirable level of crime

  9. How can Durkheim explain the continued existence of crime? • Key concept: Anomie (normlessness) • Anomie as a characteristic of industrial societies • Unfettered individualism • Anomie as a characteristic of individuals • “A process whereby social norms lose their hold over individual / group behaviour” • A symptom of underdeveloped division of labour

  10. The Division of Labour • Mechanical Solidarity • Pre-industrial • Simple normative system: a unified, simplified moral code • Organic Solidarity • Industrial society (though yet to be achieved) • Complex division of labour • Conscious Collective: social cohesion achieved despite moral diversity • Anomie: results from the decline of mechanical solidarity, and the lack of development of regulatory forces • Individualism > Social Responsibility

  11. Robert Merton and Strain • Shared Durkheim’s functionalist concerns • Esp. Individualism v. Societal Needs • Anomie: a strain existing between two powerful sets of normative codes • Goals – material success, power etc. • Means of achieving them legitimately • The vast majority of the (American) population by definition could not achieve the goals

  12. F.D. Roosevelt Al Capone

  13. Merton’s adaptations to Strain

  14. Criticisms of Merton • Unwarranted assumption of shared goals • Not, though, ignoring the possibility of conflict • Overly deterministic: everything explained by socialisation: no conscious choice • Paradoxically, also underplays the importance of structural position e.g. the mediation of expectations in different class positions • Does not account for different types of “innovation” • Subjectivity absent

  15. Deviance Social Cohesion Social Cohesion Criticisms of Functionalism • Consensus based • Functional in whose interests? • Conservative • Ignores conflict • Tautological: • Deterministic: little room for consideration of individual agency (choices) • Other structural explanations still possible e.g. Marxism • Inability to distinguish the functional from the dysfunctional