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.
The above video features some highlights of the “TEDxManhattan 2013” conference. The main topic of discussion at the conference was the food movement. Just walk into a supermarket or watch a food commercial, and you’ll notice that there has been this massive push to change the way in which we eat. Why? As preventable diseases and cancers of ambiguous origins continue to be responsible for more deaths in the United States than ever before, it is safe to say that individuals are starting to question whether food plays any part in this problem. They would argue that food, indeed has a major role. Because of this, they have revitalized the food movement, incorporating efforts such as juicing, raw food diets, marketing “superfoods”, non-consumption of fast food/processed foods, and rejection of medication. As I watched the above video and continued to research the topic, I could not help but notice some elements of Robert Merton’s strain theory at work in this movement. I particularly thought of the rebellion mode of adaptation. Rebels reject both society’s culturally defined goals and structurally defined means of attaining those goals. The culturally defined goal in this case relates to why we eat. Society would say that we eat to stay alive, and there is not much of an emphasis on health. Food is an experience, and the pleasure that eating brings us is more important than anything else. In response to this, society has mass produced food and created it to be purposely more pleasurable to us. As a result, less nutrients are being retained by our food. Food movement advocates would argue that we primarily eat to stay healthy and sustain life. Instead of contributing to the market and associated institutions, they choose to eat specific foods. They believe that through their alternative methods of eating, they will achieve their goal and empower others to challenge these concepts as well.
This semester I am taking an interesting history class called Nazism, Fascism, and Stalinism. During one class, we watched the first half of a 1970 Italian political film called the Conformist. The film takes place during Fascist controlled Italy and centers on a man named Marcello and his obsession with trying to appear “normal”. He wants to get married and embarks on a quest to land a job with the fascist secret police. This all done in the name of “conforming” under the fascist regime during the 1930’s. Robert Merton’s Strain Theory perfectly illustrates Fascism within Germany and Italy.
Fascism requires mass mobilization and modernization. Every person within society becomes a cog within a machine, ultimately working towards advancing and promoting the nation. Fascism creates atomization, breaking down an individual’s social and family connections, where the Nation becomes the most important aspect of an individual’s life. Under Nazi occupied Germany, youths had to join Nazi youth organizations and political dissent was suppressed. The majority of Germans conformed within society. Merton believes that Conformity is the most common form of adaptation. Conformists ultimately accept the goals of society and strive to achieve them (in our case, we are talking about fascism under Germany and Italy). Although most people conformed because it is essentially the easiest thing to do, there were some forms of Rebellion, or non-conformity. Rebellion is an adaptation that occurs when the cultural goals of society are rejected. Within both Germany and Italy, there were secret and underground groups that rejected the ideals and goals of fascism. Interestingly enough, Merton’s concept of Retreatism could also be seen within both societies, especially within Nazi occupied Germany. In fear of being snitched on by a neighbor, or being overheard by a Nazi official incognito, many Germans retreated from society in fear for their lives. They went to work and their normal routines but avoided interaction and ultimately withdrew from society for fear of being accused as being disloyal to Nazi Germany and the Nation.