Merton\'s 5 reactions to anomie | Brendan Beech .edu

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Question 1 Merton's five reactions to anomie Conformity According to Joubert et al (2009), compliance with standards, ru...


  Question 1 Merton’s five reactions to anomie Conformity According to Joubert et al (2009), compliance with standards, rules and laws is common even in those societies dominated by anomie. From a criminological point of view, conformists are of little concern. They are both capable of and willing to adhere to societal norms. They desire success and wealth and they are able to do so by pursuing an education and maintaining well paid jobs (Siegel, 2010). According to Merton (Williams, 2004 in Joubert et al, 2009), the majority fall into this category and society is thus able to remain relatively stable. If the majority did not conform, the society would ultimately disintegrate and this would thus lead to a state of anomie (Siegel, 2010). Innovation According to Brown et al (2010), “innovation is probably the most common form of adaptation to structural stress induced by the inability to legitimately achieve cultural goals.” This occurs when individuals accept society’s norms and goals, but find themselves unable or unwilling to attain them through legitimate channels. This consequently leads to the introduction of new methods, ideas or products which effectively reconstruct established norms. Of Merton’s five reactions, innovation is most commonly connected or associated with criminal behaviour (Siegel, 2010). Ritualism Ritualists embrace institutionalised rules and ceremonies and yet lack the enthusiasm and commitment to pursue cultural goals (Joubert et al, 2009; Brownet al, 2010; Siegel, 2010). Ritualists have abondoned hopes of improvement or success. The regular observance or practice of ritual activities, especially excessively or without regard to its function are typical of ritualism (Siegel, 2010). Of all the groups mentioned, ritualists are probably the least likely to become involved in criminal behaviour because they are not actively pursuing goals and have no real aspirations to succeed on any socio-economic level (Featherstone et al, 2003). The 1  |  P a g e     ©  2011  -­‐  Brendan  R  Beech    

  ritualist’s modus operandi within the working environment involves settling into positions with no long-term prospects which usually offer little hope for advancement, but which apparently offer a greater degree of financial security and minimal risk (Joubert et al, 2009). They are comfortable to settle for mediocrity and it may be said that they prefer the “safe” approach to life (Brown et al, 2010). Retreatism These comprise the social dropouts with neither a desire to succeed socially, nor to abide by societal norms to an degree. Merton suggested that these are they who are “in the society but not of it” and would include “psychotics, psychoneurotics, chronic autists, pariahs, outcasts, vagrants, vagabonds, tramps, chronic drunkards and drug addicts” (Merton in Siegel, 2010). This group may also include people who are part of otherwise severely disadvantaged minority groups (Joubert et al, 2009). Essentially the group includes any people for whom mental or physical withdrawal from an uncomfortable, difficult or seemingly impossible situation seems a legitimate alternative to dealing with their inability to succeed (Siegel, 2010). Rebellion Acts of destruction and violence, resistance to or open outright rejection of the established system are typical of this deviation. Not only are the societal norms discarded entirely, but they are actively substituted with a new ideology (Featherstone et al, 2003). These rebels form their own subculture with its own set of values and rules (Brown et al, 2010). One factor which is common amongst these groups and which perhaps most clearly separates them from others is the inherently violent nature of their resistance to conformity. Destruction of property, acts of terror, murders and so forth are commonplace tactics that are employed in order to achieve their objectives which essentially aim to destroy the basis of that society’s culture (Williams, 2004 in Joubert et al, 2009). These include extremist groups such as terrorists, freedom fighters and political revolutionaries who employ subversive and manipulative acts of violence in order to achieve their goals (Joubert et al, 2009; Brown et al, 2010). 2  |  P a g e     ©  2011  -­‐  Brendan  R  Beech    

  Question 2.1 “Two Cape Town ATMs bombed” Innovation There is an ongoing crisis in South Africa involving ATM bombings. Certain criminal elements are taking ‘bank robbery’ to a whole new level—a cunning example of innovation at work. Typically, bank robberies and cash in transit heists involve a massive risk of capture, injury or even death. It would appear to be much more profitable and far less risky to simply blow open ATMs using high explosives. These robberies often take place in the early hours of the morning, when there are few people around, thus reducing the risk of being identified by witnesses or of being apprehended by the police. Authorities have struggled for the past few years to solve these sorts of robberies, but with little or no success. While the literature indicates that innovation is particularly common among the lower class, police have for some time suspected that the majority of these gangs are part of wealthy organised crime cartels. The perpetrators themselves are, however, still likely to be from deprived socio-economic backgrounds. It is hardly surprising, however, that this method has been adopted. From the perspective of the innovative criminal, ATMs contain relatively large amounts of cash that is almost literally just left unattended.

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  Question 2.2 “Gunman Kills 4 in France” Rebellion The recent religiously and politically motivated brutual murders of Jewish people, including young children, in Paris is a visceral example of rebellion as a reaction to anomie. These murders are clearly anti-Semitic in nature. Later investigations into these murders and the subsequent location and death of the perpetrator indicated clear links to a militant Islamic group. This is an interesting scenario, because there are many such groups scattered around the globe and these groups are large in number; the “subculture” is thus unusually large. This behaviour is recognised as deviant in nature by a global majority. The followers or members of this rapidly expanding group of militant rebels openly defy the traditions, religious beliefs and societal norms of the western world. They openly express their desire to cause destruction of the culture of western countries, as well as any countries which are identified as Zionist sympathisers.

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Bibliography Article titled “Two Cape Town ATMs bombed”. February 7, 2012.

bombed-20120207. Article titled “Gunman Kills 4 in France”. March 19, 2012. =1924:gunman-kills-4-in-france&catid=82:international&Itemid=459. Brown, S.E., Esbensen F-A & Geis, G. 2010. Social Structure Theories of Crime. Criminology: Explaining Crime and Its Content pp.242-244. 7th Edition: New Providence, NJ: Matthew Bender & Company, Inc. Featherstone, Richard, and Mathieu Deflem. 2003. “Anomie and Strain: Context and Consequences of Merton’s Two Theories.” Sociological Inquiry73(4):471-489, 2003. Joubert, S.J., Joubert, E. & Ovens, M. 2009. Reactions to anomie. CMY301H (The Explanation of Crime). Pretoria, UNISA. Marwah,








Continuities in the Theory of Anomie-and-Opportunity-Structures." Pp. 5776 in Sociological Theory and Criminological Research: Views from Europe and the United States, edited by Mathieu Deflem. Amsterdam: Elsevier/JAI Press. Siegel, L.J. 2010. Social Structure Theories. Criminology: Theories, Patterns



Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.

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