Merton's Strain Theory Analysis

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Merton thought that most of the strain and frustration felt by people who could not achieve material wealth was due not necessarily so much to the failure to achieve conventional goals ( i.e., wealth) but rather to the differential emphasis placed on material and economic goals and the de-emphasis on the importance of conventional means (Tibbetts and Hemmons, 2010). In an ideal society, according to Merton, there would be an equal emphasis on goals and means. America, he argued, placed greater emphasis on goals over means. This he referred to as anomie. Anomie was a term that came from Durkheim. It is usually defined as normlessness or a lack of social regulation in society, and generally means that when there is a breakdown of institutionalized norms social values and standards no…show more content…
Merton’s point of view was that America produced a state of anomie because of the greater emphasis on the goals of wealth at the expense of the conventional ways of going about attaining economic success. By 1968, Merton was clarifying his strain theory by arguing for a perspective that views socially deviant behavior, including criminal behavior as a product of social structure (Tibbetts and Hemmons, 2010). The social structure, for Merton, had to do with approved social means. While people can put forth an honest effort to attain the American Dream, Americans are more likely to do whatever it takes to get ahead. However, although doing whatever it takes to succeed might lead to criminality, Merton developed five “modes of adaptation” to strain. The first mode of adaptation is conformity. While many, if not most, people
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