Tag Archives: anomie

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.


Merton and Music for The LA Riots



Uprising: Hip Hop and The LA Riots – watch film here

The documentary made by Mark Ford, explores the topics on how hip-hop music during the time of the LA Riots was used as their way of communicating their message to the world of what life was like living in the ghetto of LA at that time. Hip Hop music by artists such as N.W.A, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, was the voice of all of their struggles, issues with police corruption and also with how they are treated in their society.  When watching this documentary it reminded me of the video we watched in class about the riots in England. I found that the rioters in both documentaries were rioting and looting for the same reasons and feeling they didn’t have a voice.  Ford explains that his film, “shows how powerful music can be, what it can do and what it means to people. I hope what people really take away from it is for us to pay attention to the suffering going on in our society. It just so happened at that time, hip-hop was about the only place you could hear the messages being told.” The music was made 20 years before the LA riots took over that neighborhood, but these songs were used as a theme song or soundtrack for the Riots.  Everyone on the streets had these songs blasting in all their cars with lyrics like ” F*CK the POLICE” clearly showed the anger, and resentment towards the police and the system. I watch this film thinking about how Merton’s ideas can be applied. But I think Merton can explain that the music and the way in which the public reacted to to as an Innovation adaption. The music is something they created to get their message out to the world, and they succeeded by it spreading to people of all races in which the film explains. Music with these lyrics wouldn’t be allowed on the radio, but they eventually got extremely successful to over power that.  But the violence that broke out in these LA riots, and the destruction of buildings, and cars were an example of the result of what happens when the police backed out and left the crowd getting more hostile towards everything. Merton would explain this as an rebellion adaption.  They weren’t secretive about it, they were rebelling publicly and looting just like the rioters from England and all for the same reasons which is why I think these videos closely relate to each other. 


Innovation by Sky Ferriarie (Blog 4)


The youtube video “I Blame Myself”, by Sky Ferriarie, depicts a group of men that innovate some medium to alleviate their pains as poor men living in a California ghetto. The culture of pop and opulence is desired as one of the gangsters is seen driving his car up and down. There may also be a need to become stable and not just live by fancier standards. This is the anomie or strain between cultural goals and institutional means which Merton implies in his essay “Social Structure And Anomie”. Why would one go and sell drugs, could it be that he would want to suffice for a standard living. The singer in the video sings that the young men don’t have a choice and are just getting only, this could imply that their innovation is just a way to get by. They wear gold chains which could also signify that they are going against certain institutions and selling drugs to fit into a culture of fairness and democracy. The young men in the video aren’t conforming to anything by partaking in gangs and committing illegal crimes. There is an old man that seems to be picking up drugs, and he seems to be going against institutionalized means to get want the wants maybe because he has no other choice. On the other hand,the young black men seem to try to fit into pop culture with their jewelry and cars. The fact that the singer sings that she blames herself for her reputation, seemingly speaking for the young black men, signifies that maybe the men feel bad about what they do, when Merton would suggest that they are conditioned to attain fair wealth, and go to many lengths to achieve such wealth. This is where the stain lies or the anomie by Merton. The blame is due to the conditioning of a hypocritical democracy and the available illegal means to obtain some money. The manner in which the young man curses after the man in the car signs to the man outside a death symbol reveals that there lacks a moral sentiment between the men! and as drug dealers! they are open to using violence and threats to attain some cultural fairness. Despite all the bling, the men still have to fight the hounds of hell in world unchanged and unaiding to them; hence they become antisocial and partake in illegal crimes. Nevertheless, this is an inquiry left unquenched. If the men were living in a country that did not jokingly decorate itself with fairness, would they feel the need to go to such extreme violent levels to hypothetically not only survive, but thrive with jewelry and fancy things. “In societies such as our own, then the pressure of prestige-bearing success tend to eliminate the effective social constraint over means employed to this end.” (Merton, 681) The young men practice dealing to alleviate their pains of being poorer. They should blame themselves, but if they live in a culture of democracy, can they be blamed? There are swift and cold calculations as the men meet each other at a street, this anomie or strain is what is wrong with our society. Such an ideology of any ends will justify my means of fairness is indeed detrimental.

Durkheim and Suicide- Post #3

Today’s lecture had me thinking all afternoon. I found it really interesting that Durkheim had such strong theories related to suicide. I have to say that I both agree and disagree with his ideas. Being that I am a psychology major, I think I have a strong bias against theories that argue a certain phenomena is not really a result of one’s mental health. However, after conceptualizing Durkheim’s theory I understand his sociological analysis of suicide, but I do not think that he was necessarily correct in almost shunning psychological aspects of suicide. Further, I had some thoughts regarding Durkheim’s interpretation of the anomie theory in relation to suicide.

Suicide is a very interpersonal action. I think that those who attempt or go through with suicide have an internal conflict which can be influenced by events or occurrences in society. I disagree in that social events can directly lead one to commit suicide. I believe there has to be underlying issues or conflicts that an individual deals with that contributes to their decision to attempt suicide. As Professor Hala mentioned in class, the economic crisis was almost the tip of the ice berg for many men’s emotional states which, in turn, increased the likelihood they would go through with suicide. Perhaps these men already felt a sense of pressure, depression or concern about making ends meet in order to support themselves or their families; then following the downfall of our economy, they may have felt completely defeated and that there was no other way out. Shifting gears and thinking about suicide internationally or cross culturally, I think that social facts and the way in which individuals relate to their society or culture play a role in suicide statistics. However, I do still contest to my belief that there is a psychological factor that plays a role in a carried out suicide attempts.

Robert Merton (1940) expanded on Durkheim’s theory of anomie by discussing five adaptations of strain. Durkheim’s theory of anomie discusses the break down of cultural norms due to rapid change. This is related back to suicide in that individuals are more likely to commit suicide in times of rapid or sudden economic decrease or prosperity. Merton proposed five modes or adaptations to strain that members of society fell into if they could not achieve goals, if you will. Conformity, innovation, rebellion, ritualism and retreatism are the modes of adaptation (I have provided a link below which describes each mode of adaptation in detail). Typically these modes of adaptation are used to understand deviance among societies, but sociologically thinking, I would consider suicide to be an act of deviance, because it essentially goes against social norms. While reading about Durkheim’s theories on suicide, I was surprised not to see any mention of Merton’s expansion as I believe they would support Durkheim’s ideology and supported his idea that social factors influence suicide.

Durkheim provides a very thought-provoking take on suicide. I would have never thought of suicide on a macro level in the way he did. I believe that suicide is very individualistic BUT individuals are easily influenced by social events which can reinforce their suicidal thoughts or tendencies.



Blog # 3: Rules of the Sociological Method & Suicide (Durkheim)

Durkheim idea of crime is a very interesting subject. As he mentioned, crime cannot be completely gone because it is needed to reaffirm the rules or the social order of society for what is right and what is wrong.  I have not realize that life is like a game, where you can make the rules and the consequence. It is interesting to understand that even if there is little crime, there is some type of balance order because there cannot be a place where someone needs to rob food for their family.

Durkheim mentioned that we inherit the acts we perform in society, such as education. In my opinion, having objectives in to conform every day without any way of your control has made by the life that have been given buy you. In addition, our actions or decision sometimes is based on the outside influences, such as our neighbors or our group of people we hang out with. Also our inner thoughts will become a strange or foreign that because of the influence of other people that allow us to conform to what it is.

Another social issue that Durkheim looked into is suicide. He mentioned that suicide does not happen in areas that have a lot of alcoholism but in areas that lack social and moral regulation (interaction). Social interaction is important in communities because people feel that they are part of something important and they are involved in something that can give them pleasure and another kind of satisfaction. An example of social need of someone is a job team work building workshop where people need to need to have a trust of its neighboring worker to get the job done.

The two things that Durkheim notices that was missing in people who commit suicide, as I mentioned before is social integration and moral regulation. He states that is egoism and anomie. People who live in cities usually do not have anyone with them close and they live alone, which they are likely to commit suicide (egoism). People who do not have any morals to guide them, lost souls I can say who do not have the goal to move forward or do not know what direction to go, usually commit suicide (anomie). It is pretty interesting that suicide back in Durkheim period is similar to what todays similar ideas of someone killing themselves. In the New York Times there was an article that discussed that middle-aged Americans committed suicide often in the past decade. “In 2010 there were 33,687 deaths from motor vehicle crashes and 38,3654 suicides”(Parker-Pope NYTIMES, 2013), the difference of these 2 deaths is about 5,000. It is hard to believe that Americans in the ages of 35-64, men and women, are willing to kill themselves. Sadly, suicide is a stigma a lot of people do not want to talk about. However having a discussion and understand the issues each individual had to go through would shed some light for the reasons they wanted to end their lives and make us, the future people for making decisions in society, not make the same mistakes or help people out.

Also, as a personal note, thinking about suicide is something I think many people thought of, including myself. However, it is easy for one person to give from all the stress and the unknown road that is taken without the support of other people is pretty hard for one person to hold on their shoulder.



Edles, Laura and Appelrouth, Scott. 2010. SocioloticalTheory in the Classical Era: text and readings 2nd edition. Pine Forge Press Sage Publications.

Parker-Pope, Tara. New York Times (ONLINE). (2013, May2). “Sucide Rates Rise Sharply in U.S.” Accessed on Feburary 24, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/03/health/suicide-rate-rises-sharply-in-us.html?_r=0

Perception Versus Reality- 2/9/14 assignment, Blog #2

Sometimes our perception of something may influence our ability to understand the reality of a situation. I think most Americans have been purposely blinded to the cruel reality of our economic system and inequality of wealth among the country.  I have always understood that there was sever inequality when it came to money, but I never seen or actually understood the statistics. Additionally, I don’t really know how I feel about the inequality. Is it fair to penalize those who have worked for years for all they have? But, is it fair to those who struggle living paycheck to paycheck that never get a chance to financially prosper? I don’t know that I or anyone else can really answer these questions. 

To me, capitalism represents the rich being rich, the poor being poor and everyone else just working or existing to support the two extremes. Socialism is the opposite in that all people have an equal amount of money. I was surprised when I watched the videos and really thought about the inequality, in fact it made rather upset. Firstly, to think of all those who are living at or below the poverty level compared to the 1% is something I cannot wrap my head around. We all live in the same nation, with the same presidents and the same opportunities; America, the land of opportunity. A place that I’m sure so many people would drop everything and leave their country if they were given the chance. Moreover, I was completely shocked to see that there was not a drastic difference between those considered low and middle class in terms of the percentages. I consider the middle class the hardest working of all the classes.

These videos and statistics have made me realize that we are not all equal and although we like to think equality exists among us, it does not. I do not think that the inequality is or can be controlled by anyone. However, I do think that there should be something done to decrease the wealth inequality gap in the United States. We must create a happy medium between capitalism and socialism to bring us a better change of economic equality among Americans.

Karl Marx and The German Ideology- Blog #1

Firstly, I would like to start by saying I have never thought of Karl Marx as a theorist. I have always thought of him as some socialist or communist from decades ago. After reading the German Ideology and researching Karl Marx, I have come to really enjoy his work and his ideologies.

Karl Marx was the first theorist to develop a social theory of a capitalist society. Marx’s ideas went against that of Hegel and Hegelian philosophers. Hegelian philosophers were interested in consciousness and abstract ideas. They were considered idealist philosophers because they also believed the ones independent existence shaped their social reality. This idea argued that a change in social reality can come about through a change in the manner reality is perceived. Hegel’s ideology focused on social change.

Marx had an materialist approach to the change in society. The German Ideology focuses on the perception that material existence influences social change. I tried to conceptualize this theory and apply it to modern time. I think that we are greatly influenced by our material existence today. Society is driven by money and the need to have it all. I agree with Marx’s theory. Our realities are shaped by the material items that we have or strive for. We work hard to have nice homes, cars and clothes. Additionally, we work hard to provide ourselves with a meaningful education in order to get a better paying job, to eventually provide ourselves with all we want.

Thinking in terms of capitalism, our nation has been deemed a consumer nation. We are almost bread to consume (literally and figuratively) and buy. At the top of our consumer nation is the “haves” and at the bottom the “have nots”. It is the goal of those on the top of the corporate pyramids to work their employees for the least amount of money while expecting them to make daily and monthly sales goals for their stores. Failures in making numbers could result in job termination for managers, cut hours for employees and lost wages. I worked as a manager in retail for a few years only to decide that it was not for me. Shortly after beginning working at a new store in Queens, I came to realize the corporate team was not interested in my success and growth in the company. They were concerned about me and my team making their numbers in a timely fashion. Corporations do not care about the consumer, they care about their sales and the money generated from their sales. This type of neglect from corporate offices, I’m sure has played a role in the heightening debts that Americans now experience. I do not like the idea of capitalism, but I agree with Marx in that our realities are shaped by what we have or what we strive to have.