Merton and the American Dream.

Robert Merton (1910-2003) regarded the concept of ‘anomie’ as used by Durkheim as too vague, so he developed its meaning. He altered anomie to mean a society where there is a disjunction between goals and the means of achieving them.

As a functionalist, he recognised the importance of shared goals and values of society – in the USA particularly the ‘American Dream’. But he recognised that not everyone has the same opportunity to share these goals and values. 

Merton’s theory is ‘structural‘: he locates the cause of crime in American society – support for the “American Dream”.  Being blocked from success leads to deviance, people adopt illegitimate means to achieve the goals they cannot achieve legitimately. E.g. steal cars to fund the ‘perfect house’

Published in: on February 19, 2010 at 8:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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