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In relation to mertons strain theory, consider whether crime is the product of blocked opportunities.

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Introduction

IN RELATION TO MERTONS STRAIN THEORY, CONSIDER WHETHER CRIME IS THE PRODUCT OF BLOCKED OPPORTUNITIES. Created by Student: 266648 The basis of Merton's Strain Theory lies with Emile Durkheim and his theory of anomie in so far as 'anomie' is translated as 'deregulation' or 'normlessness'. Durkheim developed the concept of anomie in his book, Suicide, published in 1897 to refer to the lack of social regulation in modern society as one condition that promotes higher rates of suicide. He believed that individuals possessed an unlimited appetite of aspirations and it was up to society to regulate such an appetite. According to Durkheim, the appetites were regulated by the 'collective conscience' of society; meaning people were bound together by their common morals and beliefs. However, if this mechanism failed or was significantly weakened, anomie would occur. An anomic state would unleash in people limitless appetites that could result in a variety of deviant behaviours. It was after reading Durkheim's work that "Merton assigned himself the task of discovering what produces anomie" (Hunt, 1961:58) ...read more.

Middle

Structural strain applies to members of the society who determine what their needs are based on societal ideas and are constantly battling to achieve these ideals (O'Connor, 2003). Following on from this, when Merton introduced his general strain theory, as aspirations increase and expectations decline, delinquency and the amount of deviant behaviour that occurs increases in effect to these changes. Merton recognised that certain expectations created by these two general types of strain and went on to identify five specific "modes of adaptation" to tackle these strains (Akers, 2000:144). Merton began his expansion on anomie by stating there are two elements of social and cultural structure. The first structure is culturally assigned goals and aspirations (Merton, 1938:672). These are the things that all individuals should want and expect out of life, including success, money, material possessions etc. The second aspect of the social structure defines the acceptable mode for achieving the goals and aspirations set out by society (Merton, 1938:673). This is outlined as the acceptable and appropriate way that people get both what they want and what they expect out of life, fro example obeying laws and societal norms, getting an education and working hard through life. ...read more.

Conclusion

This, according to Merton is how crime is bred: - overemphasis on material success and lack of opportunity for such material success leads to crime. As mentioned previously, to supplement his theory, Merton developed a list of five possible reactions to such a disparity between goals and means. The first of these is the most common - Conformity. An individual facing this reaction accepts the goal alongside the institutionalised means. A second possible reaction would be Innovation. In this case, the individual accepts the goals facing him, but rejects the institutionalised means of attaining them. Then we have Ritualism, where the goal is rejected because the individual does not believe that it can be achieved but legitimate means are employed. Retreatism is where both the goal and the means are rejected. Merton used the example of the drug addict or alcoholic to demonstrate - people who are in society, but do not take part in the function of that society. The fifth and final reaction is Rebellion. Merton reserved rebellion for the individuals who, when frustrated, would elect to simply adopt a new social order and dispose of the old one. Created by: 266648 1 ...read more.

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