Robert Merton's Theory Of Anomie, And Strain Theory

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Robert Merton’s Theory of Anomie, or Strain Theory is a relevant mainstream sociological theory for understanding how individuals end up dealing drugs. Merton’s theory revolves around the idea that there is a dysfunction between the American dream, which is a cultural value of success, and the social structure that creates the means of achieving that success. He acknowledges that class and ethnic structures in our society provide different access to achievement, and his theory of anomie is concerned with the “strain” between aspirations and achievements that lead to criminal activity. US society is centered on judging people’s social worth based on their apparent material success, and that attaining that success is available to all as long as they work hard and take advantage of all available opportunities. In reality thought, those means and opportunities are not available to all. Thus crime is produced by the extoling of cultural values that are essentially unattainable for certain segments of the population due to social and institutional restrictions.

This discrepancy between goals and means produces various modes of personality adaptation, which he defines as different combinations of
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Because Merton emphasizes the dysfunctions of society, rather than accepting the status quo via the consensus model like other mainstream theories, it takes into account the societally induced disadvantaged circumstances that lead to criminal behavior. The biggest difference is that Merton believes that crime is solely determined by one’s beliefs about societal norms (whether they accept or reject them). Labeling theory, however, doesn’t acknowledge whether people have the free will to determine whether they will accept or reject societal norms, that rejection (or exclusion) is simply imposed on them, and they live up to it because they lack the power to react

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