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The theories of Durkheim, Merton, and Agnew Essay

Sociologists like Emile Durkheim used the structural functional theory of crime to understand the world and why people act the way that they do. Its main thought is that our culture is a whole unit. This unit is composed of interconnected portions. Sociologists who believe theory often focus on the social structure and social function. Durkheim based primarily all his work on this theory, the structural functional theory. Durkheim debated that deviance is a typical and essential part of our culture due to the contributions it makes to the social order. He acknowledged four purposes that deviance satisfies which include confirmation of cultural norms and values, clarification of right and wrong, union of others in society, and lastly the promotion of social change. Confirmation of cultural norms and values is when society judges what is acceptable or unacceptable in society by seeing a person punished for a deviant crime or act. When society sees someone sent to prison for shoplifting, it affirms for them that it is wrong and unacceptable.

The clarification of right and wrong is the distinguishing what is right and what is wrong as a response to deviant behavior. The union of others in society is the response to deviant that can bring people together. A prime example of this was when the bombs went out in Boston during the marathon. People across the Boston, and even across the country, were unified in the shock and heartache over the attack. Lastly, the promotion of social change is the encouragement from society of deviant act that are alternative to the common norms and values. In 1955, Rosa Parks sat in the front of the bus in the white only section. At the time of era this was an act of deviance in which led the Supreme Court to declare it was unconstitutional for any type of segregation on public transportation. During the 1960’s, sociologist Robert Merton began using the term anomie which refers to the confusion that occurs when social norms are conflicted or even nonexistent.

Merton used the word to define the differences between socially accepted goals and the attainability of resources to achieve those goals. Robert Merton stressed that accomplishing wealth is a major goal of our culture, but not everyone is able to get the correct means to do so. This is why many members of minorities or people who are disadvantaged have committed deviant acts. The primary contribution of anomie theory is its ability to explain many forms of deviance. The theory is also sociological in its emphasis on the role of social forces in creating deviance. On the negative side, anomie theory has been criticized for its generality. Critics note the theory’s lack of statements concerning the process of learning deviance, including the internal motivators for deviance. Merton’s five modes of adaptation include, Conformity, Innovation, Ritualism, Retreatism, and Rebellion. Conformity is the first of five modes of adaptation to anomie strain. It is the most common response from an individual. Individuals admit to society’s goals and educational resources.

Those who conform to these goals and standards of society are less likely to become deviant than those that do not conform. Innovation is where individuals harmonize with their cultural goals but instead discover their own means. Individuals that innovate have the greatest likelihood of becoming a criminal. Persons who deal with ritualism often have the belief that society’s goals are unachievable. Although they feel as though society’s goal are unattainable they still consent to institutional means. They are not as likely to become a criminal but are often viewed as being odd or even deviant. Retreatism is the total refusal of both society’s goals and institutional resources. This individual is highly likely to develop a deviant demeanor. They are also very likely to place themselves into the roller coaster ride of hard drugs and excessive alcohol consumption. And the last of Merton’s five modes of adaptation includes Rebellion.

It’s the refusal of accepting both cultural goals and institutional resources. These rebellious individuals are very prone to be look at in a different way from other criminals. This is because these individuals are committing deviant crimes for the best interest of others instead for their personal gratification. They attempt to change our society’s goals and means to a new standard move fitting for the current times. Merton also developed the strain theory, this theory proposes that society’s system encourages an excessive amount of deviance. It also suggests that when an individual is prohibited from accomplishing socially accepted goals through educational means, they are very lucky to feel strained or frustrated which could have an outcome of behaving in a deviant matter. Merton also that a person could experience anomie, which are the feelings of being disconnected to society. Which is possible when an individual is unable to achieve their institutional goals due to many factors.

Lastly, Robert Agnew’s general strain theory suggests that strain causes destructive behaviors and feelings, this has the possibility of leading to multiple negative consequences. Typically, it commonly leads to delinquency. Some strains from this theory include the failure to attain positive society goals, the loss of a valuable person or item, and negative actions that society disapproves of such as physical abuse. Although there are many categories of strain, many fall into these groups. Agnew tried to identify the circumstances under what strain might direct to crime. Strains that are viewed as unjust, high in scale, affiliated with low social control, and encourages and individual to involve themselves in criminal coping have the greatest likelihood to get involved with violence and law-breaking behavior.

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