John Merton's Theory Of Deviance In Society

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Introduction.
Merton was an American Sociologist born on July 4th 1910. He Attended Temple College for undergraduate work and Harvard for graduate work, studying sociology at both and earning his doctorate degree in 1936. Merton taught at a number of universities for many years before retiring from teaching in 1984. Merton has been awarded honorary degrees by more than 20 universities including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Chicago as well as several other universities abroad. Today, Merton is considered to be one of the founding fathers of modern Sociology.
In this essay, I will discuss the contribution Merton has made to Sociology. The main areas in which Merton has made a considerable contribution are in the founding of the Sociology of Science,
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It explains how internal changes can occur in a system. For Merton, anomie occurs when there is a discontinuation between cultural goals and the accepted methods available for reaching them. Merton links anomie with deviance and argues that the discontinuity between culture and structure leads to deviance in society, which is a dysfunction. Using the American Dream as an example, Merton developed the strain theory. Merton argues that while many social groups try to achieve this dream, for some it is not possible. There is then a strain on these groups to try and achieve this goal by means either legitimate or illegitimate. The strain between cultural values and the unequal distribution of legitimate opportunities then leads to deviance and crime. Merton believed there was five possible ways in which an individual could response. These are: conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism and rebellion. The conformist accepts cultural goals and societies approved means for achieving them. An example of this is someone who works hard academically and achieves their degree. The innovator also accepts cultural goals but uses illegitimate means to achieve them. An example would be a student who wants to do well but instead of working hard, steals exam papers or cheats. The ritualist rejects culturally goals, but passively goes along with the behavior necessary to achieve those goals. For example a student who rejects academic work but goes along to all lectures. The retreatist rejects the cultural goals and the legitimate ways of achieving them. An example is someone who drops out of college. The rebel rejects both the goals and the means but instead of dropping out substitutes new goals and means of their own. An example is someone who drops out of college and becomes an actor. While Merton’s ideas are praised, they are also criticized as they don’t explain the high levels of white-collar
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