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Strain TheoryOutline and assess the view that deviance is the result of strain in society (60)

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Matthew Hunt Outline and assess the view that deviance is the result of strain in society (60) The view that deviance is the result of strain in society has been an ever present consideration in sociology for over a century. The basis of this view was first formed by Dukheim in 1897 with his theory of anomie. Anomie refers to a breakdown of social norms and the condition where norms no longer control the activities of members in society. Durkheim believed that individuals cannot find their place in society without clear rules to help guide them. Also according to the theory, sudden change within society leads to dissatisfaction, conflict and deviance. Regardless of the fact that the sudden change is a great prosperity or a great depression, anomie is the same result. Durkeim's theory was then modified in the 1930's by Robert Merton when he wanted to define an explanation for deviance in a functionalist framework. ...read more.


This leads individuals to seek out the goal by whatever means necessary. According to Merton crime and deviance occurs through this process. To put it simply, Merton believed that overemphasis on material success and lack of opportunities to achieve it leads to crime. To add to his theory, Merton defined five models of adapting to the 'strain' that he said people feel due to their inability to successfully adhere to societies goals, and the means to obtain them. The first of the five models put forward by Merton is conformity. This is where the individual continues to accept the goals of society and the means to obtain them. The second mode is innovation. During innovation, the individual accepts the goals set by society but rejects the means. This is the type of individual who would turn to deviance or illegitimate means in order to reach the sought after goal. The third in Merton's theory is ritualism. ...read more.


It is important to note that Merton's Strain Theory was written from a functionalist perspective. As a functionalist, Merton believed that deviance can be beneficial as it can indicate problems in society. He believed that once this problem has been indicated, it can then be resolved. Sociologists who have different perspectives have been critical of Merton's theory. For example, Merton has been criticised by Valier (2001) amongst others for overemphasising that a common goal exists within society. Some sociologists argue that the theory just assumes there is a cultural consensus of goals, and ignores the possibility of sub-cultures where cultural goals might differ considerably. Other critics highlight the fact that the theory doesn't take into account that just as legitimate means to success are limited, that so too are the illegitimate opportunities. Not everyone has equal access to criminal sub-cultures. It has also been argued that Merton doesn't specify why particular individuals choose one form of deviance over another. Regardless of these criticisms, Merton's Strain Theory continues to support as the evidence acquired from constant testing and research increases its validity. ...read more.

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