Robert Merton Strain Theory

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Introduction The two most important components of societies are the social structure and culture. Culture deeply influences an individual 's beliefs, values, goals as well as his identity. Cultural goals are developed in accordance with the existing social structure of the society. The social structure of a society must provide the 'means ' for an individual to achieve his cultural goals. However, the social structure often fails in providing the means, thereby creating an imbalance in the fulfillment of the cultural goals. This imbalance that stems from the lack of necessary means to achieve socially accepted cultural goals leads to structural strain. The Strain Theory was propounded by Robert…show more content…
The phenomena that Merton 's theory indicates towards can be successfully explained with the help of an example of how people achieve or strive to achieve economic success. For instance, in the U.S which has a capitalist system, everybody is motivated to attain financial profitability for a greater sense of positive identity. There are two legally approved ways of accomplishing this task, education and work. However, not everyone may have access to equal opportunities because of brokered access or discrimination on the basis of class, gender, race, sexuality etc. that is prevalent in most societies (Broidy & Agnew,1997). This leads to an unequal distribution of means among people belonging to the same society and having similar aspirations. This lack of accessibility to available means encourages deviant behaviour among people to attain their cultural goals. Such people then resort to deviant activities that violate social norms such as theft and embezzlement, to fulfill their economic goals and cultural ambitions. Individuals who are oppressed or those that are marginalized by the society are most likely to indulge in such unsanctioned activities to achieve economic success as even they have similar cultural and economic goals as the rest of the people in the society. This example validates Merton 's theory that a society which fails to provide adequate and equal means to all the people creates a strain on the less privileged and limits their scope for success through socially accepted means. A good example of this is the Black Lives Matter Movement (2014-15) which demanded equal means and respect for all. The movement adopted a violent tone as a means to accomplish its

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