Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: November 23, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412959193 | Print ISBN: 9781412959186 | Online ISBN: 9781412959193| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Merton, Robert K.: Social Structure and Anomie
Steven F. Messner
Robert K. Merton was one of the most distinguished and influential sociologists of the 20th century. Throughout his career, he was a leading figure in the sociology of science, and he made substantial contributions to general sociological theory by developing the paradigm of structural analysis. In the field of criminology, Merton is best known for advancing and popularizing the anomie perspective on crime. This perspective highlights the ways in which the normal features of the social organization of American society ironically contribute to high levels of crime and other forms of deviant behavior by producing anomie, a breakdown in the culture. This anomie or cultural breakdown is characterized by a very strong emphasis on the importance of success goals (especially monetary success) and a comparatively weak emphasis on the importance of using the normatively approved means to achieve these goals. Merton further argues that such a strain toward anomie Merton ...