Crime & Society - Durkheim's Theory of Crime

1027 words 5 pages

How might Durkheim’s concept of anomie be used to explain the deviant behaviour that is becoming apparent in all strata of society?

Emile Durkeim, describes how societies begin in simple forms of interaction and are held together by solidarity and likenesses. These homogenous societies he called “mechanical” with the growth of societies, together with technical and economic advances, make the inter-relationships more complicated and diverse. Members of society become more inter-dependent (“organic societies”), but viewed these changes as being natural and unavoidable, leading to greater happiness for individuals because they were released to enjoy goods produced by others and become a healthier society (a).
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However, Merton maintained that the healthy society lays down accepted means of achieving the end or goals (means-end theory) through hard and honest work and not through theft and fraud. He argued that emphasis should be on reaching certain goals with no control of the way in which that is achieved, then society would be anomic. He accepted that more crime was committed by the lower classes and applied its aspects to White Collar Crime, proffering that criminality arose not because of discrepancies between the goals and the approved means of achieving those goals, but because all the members of that society were led to believe that there was equality of opportunity. (e).

Durkheim placed heavy emphasis on a condition of “normlessness” arising out of abrupt change, whereas Merton sees anomie as an endemic condition which can exist at any time in any society. There are two main differences in the idea of anomie: (i) Durkheim states that the desires of the individual are natural and fixed, and the level of criminal behaviour of anomie is decided by the efficiency with which these desires are restrained. Merton states that society, not the individual, sets the desires and goals and that same society also sets the acceptable means of achieving the ends. (ii) Durkheim states that the whole society is anomic, whereas Merton considered that condition only affects certain parts of the society – those


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