AQA Sociology A2 - Merton Strain Theory

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1. What is Retreatism?

  • Where individuals carry on using legitimate means, but no longer have any goals to aspire towards.
  • Where individuals drop out of society's expectations by abandoning cultural goals and legitimate means.
  • Where individuals replace goals and means with their own ideals to try and reform society.
  • Where individuals attempt to achieve a goal in society, but face too many barriers and retreat back to Ritualism.
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2. Which of these is NOT a criticism of Merton's work (all others are)?

  • It doesn't offer explanation for delinquent subcultures.
  • He ignores the power of the ruling class to enforce laws that criminalise the poor, but not the rich.
  • He provided no statistical evidence towards his theory.
  • It can't explain why genocide, violence, vandalism etc. occur.
  • He assumes value consensus on society's goals.
  • He used statistics at face value ("the tip of the iceberg").

3. Which of these is NOT a strain adaptation (all the others are) according to Merton?

  • Retreatism
  • Conformity
  • Rebellion
  • Innovation
  • Reinvention
  • Ritualism

4. Which Sociological theory is Strain Theory associated with most often?

  • Functionalism
  • Symbolic Interactionalism
  • Marxism
  • Feminism

5. What is the main issue with Merton's approach to Strain Adaptations?

  • Individuals might be able to slot into more than 1 adaptation
  • He failed to account for those of ethnic backgrounds.
  • The difference between Rebellion/Retreatism is practically non-existent.
  • There are some people who don't fit into any adaptation.


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