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Social Anomie in South Africa Essay

Rapid modernization often produces major social change in society. Rapid social change enforces innumerable impacts on society and the individual. In the process of modernization, societies absorb the changes that come with new and shed away the old ways. Problem occurs when adaptation to change is difficult. Greater differentiation in social ranks results in the widespread of anomie and powerlessness in society and the individual. The purpose of this essay is to critically discuss anomie while drawing on a number of examples from the South African context. It is highly important that firstly we develop a clear and precise understanding of social change. Social change can be understood as the alteration of social interactions, institutions, stratification systems and the elements of culture over time, Anderson (2007; 14). Since society is in a constant state of flux, change may either be rapid e.g. cell phones or gradual, e.g. urbanization. Change may be easily adapted to or in some cases may be resisted, or some individuals may be slow in the adaptation process. Due to the increasing pace of change, individuals and society may experience high levels of anomie in a bid to adapt to change. Anomie can be defined as the absence of norms or established standards. It specifically refers to the situation where the normal patterns of social life are suddenly uprooted. When a social system is in a state of anomie, common values and common meanings are no longer understood or accepted, and new values and meanings have not developed. Such a society produces, in many of its members, psychological states characterized by a sense of powerlessness, lack of purpose, and emotional emptiness and despair. Striving is considered useless, because there is no accepted definition of what is desirable. Anomie which can be closely associated with normlessness is most often found in people who lack an acceptable means of achieving their personal goals. Anomie can disrupt individuals bond with society, Dillon (2010; 105). Goals may become so important that if the institutionalized means—i.e., those means acceptable according to the standards of the society fail, illegitimate means might be used. Greater emphasis on ends rather than means creates a stress that leads to a breakdown in the regulatory structure i.e., anomie. In order for a society to be socially integrative there must be a balance between aspirations and means to fulfil aspirations, Mau and Huschka (2005; 469). If, for example, a society impelled its members to acquire wealth yet offered inadequate means for them to do so, the strain would cause many people to violate norms.

Thus individuals may resort to deviant means of acquiring what society deems as right. A perfect illustration of such is the issue of Maleven who is interviewed by Theroux (2009) in the documentary Law and Disorder in Johannesburg. He clearly states that he comes from a poor family which is struck by poverty. He is quoted saying “I never go to school, what can I do”, therefore he’s only means for survival was what society deemed as unjust and violation of societies norms. Education is touted as a major feature in achieving culturally devised goals. Due to lack of education, he felt powerlessness, social isolation, disorientation and deprivation. He saw himself as a person who has no standards or sense of continuity or obligation and thus opted rejected all social bonds. Many people live in rootless areas, places that attract transient people on the move for various economic and personal reasons. As such it is difficult for such communities to provide a socially integrating anchor for individuals and family. Such areas are commonly known as slums and are characterised by high rates of crimes, alcoholism, child abuse deaths, etc. an area can be characterised as a slum if half or more households lack improved water, sanitation, sufficient living area and durable housing. A perfect example of such an area is the township of Dips-loot. This area is widespread of anomie as they feel that government systems are failing to meet their demands. In the documentary we are exposed to an issue of a local citizen (Donald Legwati) and a private law enforcer (William). Local residents were angry with the methods used by William on Donald, and thus wanted justice to be served in their own way. Lack of social regulation from authorities saw people sensing themselves as enforcers of the law. Huschka and Mau (2005; 475) state that the overall anomie level in South Africa might be comparatively high, but different social groups adapt differently to it. Racial differences present striking features of social inequality which can be closely associated with anomie. Race specific anomie is largely determined by socio economic factors, e.g. employment status, income and education. For example, the black majority of the population might fill anomie due to the apartheid produced highly stratified socio-economic positions in society. Hence left the majority felling powerlessness and a sense of isolation by the minority In conclusion of the above mentioned,
Anomie thus refers to a breakdown of social norms and it a condition where norms no longer control the activities of members in society.in the South African context, it is eminently seem amongst the black previously disadvantaged majority. Reference Page

Anderson, M.L, Taylor, H.F, 2007, Sociology – The Essentials 5th Edition, Thomson Wadsworth, USA Mau, S, Huschka, D, 2006, Social Anomie and Racial Segregation in South Africa, vol. 76, No3, pp 467-498 Theroux, 2009, Law and disorder in Johannesburg, (video online) Accessed : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZJ1w9-Umcw (2013/09/15) Dillon, M, 2010, Introduction to Sociological Theory, Blackwell Publishing, UK

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