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A Critical Look at Merton's Anomie Theory

Alex Thio
The Pacific Sociological Review
Vol. 18, No. 2 (Apr., 1975), pp. 139-158
DOI: 10.2307/1388629
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1388629
Page Count: 20
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A Critical Look at Merton's Anomie Theory
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Abstract

This paper seriously questions the assertion of Merton's anomie theory that lower-class persons are more likely than upper-class persons to suffer from an aspiration-opportunity disjunction and therefore are subject to greater pressure toward deviation. The untenability of this assertion lies in the fact that Merton either completely ignores or takes lightly, if acknowledging at all, such cognate concepts as realistic aspirations, relative deprivation, and the difficult-to-observe type of deviance. These concepts would require a radical change in the nature of Merton's anomie theory if that theory is to conform to the empirical reality of deviance and its causation. The paper concludes by arguing that Merton's theory may have been a disservice to both sociology and humanity.

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