Structural Strain Theory By Robert Merton's 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…
Merton 's structural strain theory is connected to Durkheim 's theory of anomie that emphasizes the imbalance between old societal norms and the new values that are evolving. Durkheim noted that a lack of normal ethical or social standards is responsible for making people indecisive on how to behave with one another. He considered Anomie as an undetermined behavioral state that motivated deviant behaviour. In Merton 's strain theory deviant behaviour is regarded as the most likely outcome of the strain that individual 's experience when faced with a lack of approved and adequate means to obtain culturally validated goals. Durkheim 's writings revolve and reflect upon the social conditions in France that were occurring in that age while Merton 's writings were influenced by the economic and social conditions in the US at that time. Since the middle of the 20th century Merton 's classic strain theory is dominating Criminology and is useful in explaining why crime is still on the rise even in the times of economic growth. However, all theories accept that only some of all the strained individuals participate in…show more content…
Merton recognised 'Conformity ' and adherence to cultural goals and values as the most primary reason for prevailing unsanctioned economic activities and crime. 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
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