Merton's strain theory

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  • Created by: lucexox
  • Created on: 04-07-16 10:19
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  • Merton's strain theory
    • The main idea
      • People engage in deviant behaviour when they are unable to achieve socially approved goals by legitimate means
        • People resort to criminal means instead
    • Structural factors
      • Society's unequal opportunity structure
    • Cultural factors
      • The strong emphasis on success goals and weaker emphasis on legitimate means to achieve them
    • He uses the American Dream and Anomie to describe this idea
      • 1. We assume society is meritocratic
      • 2. There are expectations to pursue goals through legitimate means
        • Self-discipline
        • Studying
        • Qualifications
        • Hard work
      • 3. Winning the game becomes more important than playing by the rules
      • 4. There is a strain of Anomie as many lower class groups are denied from achieving legitimately
        • Those at the 'bottom of the ladder' will find it hardest to succeed, so are more likely to seek alternative routes to success
    • Five responses to the strain of Anomie
      • Conformity
        • Accepting socially approved goals
        • Achieving goals legitimately
        • Middle class
      • Innovation
        • Accepting the goal of money success
        • Illegitimate means of achievement
        • Lower class
      • Ritualism
        • Given up on trying to achieve goals
        • Internalised the legitimate means so follow the rules anyway
        • Lowe class
        • Office workers in dead end of routine job
      • Retreatism
        • Reject the goals
        • Reject legitimate means
        • Become drop-outs
        • Drug addicts
      • Rebellion
        • Reject existing goals and means
        • Replace with new goals and means
        • Untitled
    • Evaluation
      • WEAKNESS   Seen as a working class phenomenon
      • WEAKNESS   Marxists suggest laws are enforced by the powerful to criminalise the poor
      • WEAKNESS   Assumes everyone strives for money
      • WEAKNESS   Ignores group crime, such as delinquent subcultures
      • WEAKNESS   Official statistics are taken at face value
      • STRENGTH     Explains the patterns shown in official crime stats
      • STRENGTH Official stats are reliable
      • STRENGTH     Most crime is property due to value of marital wealth
      • STRENGTH     Lower class have higher rates of crime as they are less likely to achieve legitimately
      • STRENGTH     Identifies how normal and deviant behaviour can arise from the same mainstream goals


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