Robert King Merton

Robert King Merton

Alfred Nobel University, Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine
Subject: “Sociology”
From: Tania Rodymenko
To: Ass.Prof. Proshin D.V.

Robert K. Merton


Social Structure and Anomie - Robert K. Merton

This is one of the most famous pieces of early 20th century sociological writings and crime, and, relatively speaking, fairly easy to read (trust me: try reading some Talcott Parsons!). Robert K Merton (1910 - 2003) was a prominent American sociologist, who published on a range of sociological topics from a broadly functionalist perspective, whilst recognizing the possibility that certain feature of society can be dysfunctional. His strain or anomie theory is important for a number of reasons: the centrality of culture and social structure; the recognition of emotional attachments of individuals to norms and values of society; the idea that certain societal characteristics can result in a set of different responses.
The main point of Merton's argument in this article is represented by the table on the bottom of page 3, and this certainly what Merton means to most criminology students, but it is important to read the whole article to contextualise this framework, to be able to assess Merton and criticism levelled at him, and to make links to other theories and theorists you have (or will) encounter.

«Social Structure and Anomie» Robert K. Merton

THERE persists a notable tendency in sociological theory to attribute the malfunctioning of social structure primarily to those of man's imperious biological drives which are not adequately restrained by social control. In this view, the social order is solely a device for "impulse management" and the "social processing" of tensions. These impulses which break through social control, be it noted, are held to be biologically derived. Nonconformity is assumed to be rooted in original nature. Conformity is by implication the...

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