Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 18

When people get mad, they act bad.

-Robert Agnew

Anomie.Strain Theories of Crime

Anomie Theory
Anomie theory has focused on explaining why some societies, such as the United States, have higher crime rates than others.

As we can see, US places a strong emphasis on the goal of monetary success, but yet a weak emphasis on the legitimate norms for achieving this goal, like education and hard work. As a consequence, success is pursued using whatever means are necessary.

We must underline that the higher crime rate in the United States stems from a cultural system that encourages everyone to strive for monetary success but places little emphasis on the legitimate norms for achieving such success. the american dream. Messner says that noneconomic institutions must accommodate themselves to the demands of the economy. So, the central prediction of the theory is that hight crime rates stem from the dominance of the economy over other institutions, such as family, school, political system.

Societies that fail to adequately regulate goal-seeking behavior are said to be characterized by a state of anomie.

What is strain theory? A theory which states that strain creates pressure and reasons
to engage in criminal act as a type of response to the strain being experienced at that time. There are many theories that differ in explaining what establishes the sources of strain involved. 4 common theories associated with strain:

Anomie theory (Merton, 1938) Institutional anomie theory (Messner and Rosenfeld, 1994) General strain theory (Agnew, 1985 & 992) Relative Deprivation theory (Crosby, 1976)

Messners and Rosenfelds Strain Theory: There is a strain, or a force tending to pull or stretch something to an extreme, in the American culture to fulfill the American Dream. This type of pressure to fulfill causes strain, where individuals cope by

A commitment to the goal of material success, to be pursued by everyone in society under conditions of open, individual competition.

Examples of the American Dream

A career A Home Money A Family


The American Culture is driven by success. We consider ourselves to be successful if we have a job which earns us money. We use that money to support our families and live a happy life because we have the freedom to do so. However, if one piece of the American Dream is missing, individuals tend to have a constant desire to fulfill it. We can define desire for fulfillment as a type of strain. Messner and Rosenfeld believe that a common way to either fulfill the strain or otherwise simply deal with the strain, is by committing crimes. Two central ideas associated with this theory:
Culture Social Structure These two ideas are linked through social institutions (hence the institutional anomie theory name): Social institutions link culture and social structure together in the context of the basic social functions any society must carry out in order to survive, including adaptation to the environment (economy), collective goal attainment (polity), social integration (legal system), and the maintenance of the

How do we achieve the American Dream?

There is not one specific instruction manual to fulfill this achievement. However, it can be done with hard work and dedication. Messner and Rosenfeld declare an entirely different way: The most efficient means to monetary gain often is to break the law, to rob with a gun, or to defraud the stock market through insider trading. Thus, anomie is criminogenic, and widespread anomie, as exists in American society, creates widespread lawlessness. Therefore, the American Dream causes anomie: social instability resulting from a breakdown of standards and values

Future of Strain Theory

The strain theory does an excellent job explaining the whys behind multiple crimes. It studies the specific types of strains we see placed on individuals, mostly common would the strain of pressure. There will always be the American Dream as well as the desire to fulfill it, simply because it is our countries culture. Messner and Rosenfeld therefore suggest to pursue cultural regeneration. Cultural regeneration is the essential to discredit money as the chief currency of a persons success and instead to propose that parenting, spousing, teaching, learning, and serving the community become valued ends in themselves. The sooner the United States adapts this way of thinking,

Strain Theory focuses on:

Negative relationships with others

Delinquency as the result of pressure by negative states such as anger and other negative emotions as a result of negative relationships

The General Strain Theory groups several types of strains under three main categories. Each category refers to the type of relationship with others.
1) Strain as the failure to achieve positively valued goals:
A) Difference

between the aspirations/expectation and actual achievements: Influenced by factors such as social class, intelligence, physical attractiveness, physical ability, etc.

B) Difference between the expectations and the achievements:

These expectations are created by the individual as ideal goals based on the understanding of what he/she should be able to achieve

C) Difference between just/fair outcomes and the actual outcome: This strain is based on the individuals understanding of what he/she

2) Strain as the removal of positively valued stimuli from the individual

Caused when a positively valued stimuli is removed and the result is delinquency. This criminal behavior may present itself as an attempt to prevent the loss of the stimuli, obtain a replacement for the stimuli or as an act of revenge for the loss of the stimuli (Agnew,1992). Examples of this strain are the loss of a close friend, end of a relationship, being laid off from a job, etc.

3) Strain as the presentation of negative stimuli It is based on the actual or anticipated presentation of negative or noxious stimuli . Examples of negative and/or noxious stimuli are physical and sexual abuse, child neglect, domestic violence, dangerous school, etc.

Agnews General Strain Theory states that noxious stimuli could promote aggression and other negative outcomes .

Agnew explains that noxious stimuli could cause juveniles to engage in delinquent behavior as a way to escape or avoid the negative stimuli, terminate the negative stimuli or seek revenge against the negative stimuli

Links between strain and delinquency

Negative affect, especially anger, promotes the desire to correct a situation, making delinquency a possible option

Delinquency may be used to ease strain caused by the failure to achieve positively valued goals,

Delinquency may be used to protect or retrieve positive stimuli

Delinquency may be used as a tool to neutralize negative stimuli

Delinquency may be used as a tool of revenge for the inability to achieve, protect or retrieve positively valued goal


This is the most widely read article in Sociology. Merton argues that the motivation for crime frequently derives from society. His theory is in two parts: The first part of the article presents what may be termed his anomie theory, which seeks to explain why some societies have higher rate of crime than others.

Societies that place a high relative emphasis on goals like monetary success and a low relative emphasis on the norms or rules for goal achievement have higher crime rates
The US is said to be such a society.

The second part of the article describes what may be termed Merton s strain theory.

He argues that some individuals and groups within a society are subject to special pressure for crime. While everyone is urged to strive for monetary success, lower-class individuals are frequently prevented from achieving such success through legitimate channels. As a result, they are under considerable strain or pressure. We can see how it is explained the varying correlations between crime and poverty. Poverty as such, and consequent limitation of opportunity, are not sufficient to induce a conspicuously high rate of criminal behaviour.

Delinquent Boys Albert K. Cohen

Cohen s use of strain theory to explain the origin of deviant subcultures is a fundamental contribution to the crime literature. Cohen was interested in delinquent subcultures, particularly the lower working-class urban gangs that were the subject of much attention during the 1950s. How can we explain the origin and content of delinquent subcultures? Like Merton, Cohen argues that delinquency is ultimately caused by goal blockage. He argues that lower-class and working-class boys are not simply concerned with the goal of monetary success. Rather, they want to achieve the broader goal of middle-class status, which involves respect from

This difference in goals is crucial. One can achieve financial success through illegitimate channels like theft(Merton s adaptation to innovation). One cannot, however, achieve middle-class status through the same channels. As a consequence, lower-class and working-class boys often adapt to their goal blockage by setting up an alternative status system in which they can achieve success.

The hostility of lower-class and working-class boys toward the middle-class, among other things, leads them to set up a status system that values everything the middle class rejects. The middle class values private property and respect for the individual, for example, while the delinquent gang values the destruction and theft of property and aggression against others. Cohen thus explains the origin and content of the delinquent subculture.
Other theorists claim that the values of delinquents are not as