Blog #5: Merton’s Theory of Anomie

Merton defines anomie as the social strain and mismatch between culturally prescribed goals and our socially constructed means to achieve those goals. Because not everyone is equally able to achieve the goals, some adapt in deviant ways. Merton explains that there are five ways in which people adapt. Some people conform and accept the goals of society without any deviant behavior. Most people fall into this category. Another way people adapt is through retreatism; rejecting the goals and pressures of society. This type of person would be like a drug addict or outcast. Ritualists are overconformists who follow the patterns of society but do not expect to achieve the goals. Ritualism is not deviant. Innovation accepts the prescribed goals but through illegitimate ways. Merton says that innovation is a deviant characteristic of the lower class. Lastly, rebellion rejects the goals of society as well as the means. Their goal instead is to transform the existing structure of society, this is political deviance. People that rebel are usually members of a rising class wanting to change society for the better.


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