Short paper due tomorrow, but I had a hard time reducing all the info I've taken in to two pages. If any of you guys with CJ degrees (or anyone familiar with anomie and strain theory) have a second to look this over I'd appreciate it.
Developing A Theory of Social Anomie
Frenchman Emile Durkheim, often regarded as one of the founding fathers of modern sociology, began to publish an evolving concept he referred to as anomie in 1893. Making its debut in The Division of Labor in Society, Durkheim’s theory described anomie as a state of societal existence where norms cease to apply as a result of some change in status quo (DeMelo). Such a breakdown of entrenched guidelines causes emotional duress that might then lead to deviant behavior as social rules and boundaries lose their meanings and interpersonal relations, particularly at a formal level, become less structured and predictable. As a result individual stress and anxiety levels rise, thus further distancing the individual from the sort of solid emotional base from which rational decisions and actions are fashioned.
Durkheim utilized his theory of anomie again in 1897’s Suicide, in which he attempts to examine the causations behind the taking of one’s own life. It is here that Emile’s anomie theory finds its voice as Durkheim couples his social deregulations together with the conflict of needs versus means. He states that in order to be happy, one must maintain equilibrium between his abilities and his desires. Social controls are quiet critical in this equation, as they serve as an outside limiter to help keep the individual’s focus on abilities that are within the acceptable limits in regards to the law and morals as a whole. Certain societies might also serve to keep the aspirations of its members in check, although Durkheim asserts that this is not the case in a trade and industry oriented social structure (Jones).
Revisited is the assertion that any change in the status quo will result in a norm dissolving shift that serves to give birth to deviant behavior. Durkheim theorizes that three main mechanisms for such shifts are sudden depression, sudden prosperity, or rapid technological change. Obviously one of the key shared elements is the haste in which the events occur, which seems to suggests that absent an external regulating force the imperfect human psyche is often unable to sort out certain paradigm shifts rapidly enough to prevent lapse in judgment as it scrambles to redefine its role in an realigning society. Here the theory comes full circle as Durkheim states such times give rise to suicide.
Robert Merton picked up on Durkheim’s anomie theory and expanded on it, developing what he referred to as strain theory. Merton supposed that instead of being the result of rapid shifts in society anomie is a fixture of modern society brought about by elusive goals, as an indicator of success, being dangled in front of all members of society regardless of their means to legitimately obtain such needs. Here we see the potential lack of Durkheim’s requisite equilibrium, which if absent leads to possible deviant behavior. Merton developed five different ways in which members of society coped with goal deprivation, with some of those being more susceptible to deviant behavior than others. This deviant behavior could manifest itself in acts that would normally be considered inappropriate or could appear as full-blown criminality.
I believe there is quiet a bit of merit to Emile Durkheim’s work, especially his views concerning the role of society as a whole and the contra-evolution of society as a healthy entity. It appears there is also much truth in Merton’s strain theory. I would be more prone to use it as a single favored tool in the toolbox, something that I could combine with other methods to compile the bigger picture in regards to effective police community relations.
"Sing your death song and die like a hero going home."
"Everyone's a toughguy action hero until that first bullet whizzes by their head"