Tag Archives: Merton

Strain Theory- Blog 4

Societies are characterized by both culture and social structure. The strain theory states that structures in our society can push people to commit crimes. We all have the same goals its how we go about achieving that goal that differs. What makes Merton’s deviance typology interesting is that everyone falls somewhere of his types regardless of your situation and anyone can easily become a deviant and turn to deviance in the pursuit of accepted social goals and values.  The achievement of economic success in the U.S. is a great example that explains the structural strain theory. In Merton’s Innovation theory the innovators are the people who sell illegal drugs have rejected the accepted norms for making money and are deviant in the way they get it. They reject the traditional and/or legitimate means of attaining their goals. Though illegal by selling drugs they still share the same cultural accepted value of making money. Resulting in deviance being accepted as norms sometimes. Money can be the enemy and lead to evil; people are sometimes willing to do anything for it.

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.

Do the ends really justify the means? Blog # 3

When Merton speaks about deviance, he mentions an intersect between culture, structure and anomie.  In short, culture is all that is accepted to the group as norms, structure is how the people in such a group interact with one another and anomie is when deviance from the norm occurs.  Anomie disregards the norms of structure and culture and forms a new set of rules that do not abide by what the normal structures operate.  


What strikes me as particularly interesting about this topic is how Merton expanded on Durkheim’s term of anomie.  Merton’s anomie is primarily caused by people who do not have the means of achieving what they wish to achieve legitimately.  This leads to the debate of desire and deviance because if people desire something and cannot achieve it through the means within the bounded restrictions of culture and structure, they will seek illegitimate ways to satiate their desire.  


Merton goes on to say that the American dream is a goal that many individuals seek in different ways.  The process of the American dream in which one achieves financial freedom can be done one of two ways according to Merton.  If one were to pursue it in a legitimate way, education then a stable middle class job may secure it for someone who has an advantaged start.  Individuals who do not have these means may resort to illegal activities, which while stigmatized by the general population, is potentially profitable and reaches the end all in itself.  

This brings the question up of how far an individual is wiling to go and which path they take.  In the end is it really worth it?

Blog#16: “Reading the Riots” – Supplement reading of Merton

I learned about the riots that were going on in London through the videos that were shown in class. Personally I do not get involved in riots that might endanger me because it is a move towards what I think people say radical. I am a type of person who does not go to the spot light and try to be behind the scene and see what will happen – the outcome of the event. The reading about “reading the riots” states that this report is a focused study of what is not previously experienced in “nature, motivations, attitudes, and experiences of those who rioted across London and in Brminham, Manchester, Salford, Nottingham, and Liverpool.”(pdf pg., 2).

There were 270 people that were interviewed because they were directly involved in the riots in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Salford, Liverpool, and Nottingham. These interviews were confidential.  There were more adults from 18-25 involve and up to 30 percent of teens were involve. But the majority ethnic people that were involved were African Americans. (This is not surprising because people of color in any place in the world are being oppressed and denied things from their home.) This report is very important because they focused on who was involved in the riots and what were their Mo vitiations as any other people wanting to get involve.

One of the motivations of the people in the riots was the treatments they were getting from the police it is 85percent the reason the riots had happen (which in the 2 videos shown in class stated). Also in the interview they state that police lack of respect and anger and due to the stop and search they were targeted most unfairly (pdf,pg.4). There were 185 interviews in long and 3 in Nottingham. The majority of the people where students and unemployed and I was surprised to find out that most of the people who were rioting are the poor people of the country. I actually interested in the polls they have created for the protesters believe what was the cause of the riots (on page 11). In addition to the people that were involve in the riots there were more men than women. There were 79percent of men a 21percent of women in the riots which people who got involve in the riots states that was the amount of women involve in the riots.

So the riots unfolded as a small-scale disorder in Tottenham in August but the protest went sour when the police shot a local black man two days earlier and this event caused an uproar of violence which was presented in future protest. The first day of the protest in August the family of Duggan wanted to speak to the senior police officer but tensions grew and two thrown police car was set on fire. Later in the evening to the night the looting in the streets which the next day in Enfield another breakout had occurred was another looting but in the stores.

However it does not matter where the riots occurs it is the reasons why they are doing these riots and one the reasons is that the “police is the biggest gang out there” and the word gang in these is “people who try and intimidate members of the public” (PDF pg.18). I find it a new phrase that the police is like a gang because I feel that the police are corrupt politicians. I have taken a sociology course called sociology of social movements. In addition some rioters wanted to have their revenge against police

I understand that these people want to hurt the police but making the riots become more than what truly was (friends and family trying to speak to the chief police officer of the killing of Duggan. But even if it was only about him the riots became more than hearing out the chief police it is about the repressed people who have to take the abuse of the police. Sadly 81percent of the people believe riots would happen again, and my opinion and what have had happen or yet to happen would occur someday.

Overall I believe what Merton trying to say is that people finds a way, in deviance action, to show the world what is going on and this is what is happening. Also as mentioned the majority of the people that is being involve in the riots are people who are unemployed and they seek the help of the government and not the being repressed by the police for being what/who they are. I think in certain situations violence is the only thing people are willing to use to show the world the sick reality and show that the people who are rebelling are rejecting the values in society and its goals but they are trying to show the world there has to be some type of change (similar to innovation).


Reading the Riots: Investigating England’s summer disorderImage

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.

Blog#4 Social structure and Anomie: Riots in London

There’s different ways a social group can react to the structural conditions. Merton believed that “Lack of opportunity, stress of financial success and egalitarian leads to Anomie.” Which is presented clearly in the riots in London. These riots were due to police random stops and frisks,  high tuition in education, high unemployment rates, cut backs in benefits,  and cut backs in benefits. Citizens of London decided to take “Revenge” not only against those who had to enforce a law but to the government who was enforcing these new laws. Riots consistent on lower middle class who were extremely affected by all these changes, people with dark skin tone were being stereotyped (especially for stops and frisks) There was a lack of conformity and Ritualism about this social group, they didn’t accept what the government’s new rules, therefore there was a reason to rebel against them. Retreatism was present, they all wanted to escape the new structural conditions they were facing. And the only way to do this was with the use of Innovation. The only resource to fight back and let their voice be heard was through violence, and a lot of it. To a point where they were powerful and for the first time they felt they had control over the government, that’s why many of them didn’t hesitate to say they would do this again.