Merton's strain theory

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Why do (according to strain theorists) people engage in deviance?
They are unable to achieve socially approved goals by legitimate means.
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Who was the first sociologist to develop strain theory?
Merton (functionalist)
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He adapted Durkheim's....
.... theory of anomie to explain deviance
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What 2 main elements does Merton combine to explain deviance?
1. Structural theories 2. Cultural theories
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For Merton, what is deviance the result of a strain between?
The goals that a culture encourages an individual to achieve and what the unequal oppourtunity structure of society allows them to achieve legitimately
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What does the ideology of the 'American dream' tell americans about their society?
American society is meritocratic where anyone who makes an effort can achieve material wealth
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Is this the reality?
No
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How does American society in reality differ?
Many disadvantaged groups are denied oppourtunities to achieve socially approved goals legitimately
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For example:
Poverty/discrimination/inadequate schooling
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What reaction does this provoke among the working class?
Frustration
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What does this frustration among the disadvantaged create?
A pressure to resort to illegitimate means
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What does Merton call this pressure to deviate?
The strain to anomie
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According to Merton, what does an individual's adaptation/response to strain depend on?
Their position in the social structure
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How many different adaptations to strain are there?
5
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Name Merton's 5 different adaptations to strain?
1. Conformity 2.Innovation 3.Ritualism 4.Retreatism 5.Rebellion
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What does conformity mean is this context?
When individuals accept the culturally approved goals and strive to achieve them legitimately.
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Who is most likely to have this reaction?
The middle class
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Why are the middle class most likely to conform?
Because they have good oppourtunities to achieve and do not need to deviate in order to achieve
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Why is the adaptation of conformity significant in Merton's theory?
He sees it as a typical response among most Americans
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What does innovation mean?
Accepting the socially approved goal of money success but innovating ways to achieve it (Through illegitimate means)
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Who is most likley to have this reaction/response?
People at the lower end of the class system
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Why?
They are under the greatest pressure to achieve which results in them having the greatest frustration and are therefore more likley to deviate.
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What is ritualism?
Giving up on the socially approved goal of material wealth but internalising the legimate means so they do not deviate.
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Who is most likely to have this reaction/response?
Lower-middle class office workers in dead-end, routine jobs.
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What is retreatism?
Rejecting both the goal of material wealth and legitimate means.
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What do people who 'retreat' become?
dropouts
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Who is likely to 'retreat'?
People in disadvantaged groups
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What is rebellion?
Rejecting society's goals and means but replacing them with new ones in a desire to bring about revolutionary change and create a new kind of society.
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Examples of rebels are:
Political radicals/counter-cultures (such as hippies)
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Other cards in this set

Card 2

Front

Who was the first sociologist to develop strain theory?

Back

Merton (functionalist)

Card 3

Front

He adapted Durkheim's....

Back

Preview of the front of card 3

Card 4

Front

What 2 main elements does Merton combine to explain deviance?

Back

Preview of the front of card 4

Card 5

Front

For Merton, what is deviance the result of a strain between?

Back

Preview of the front of card 5
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