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An overview of the anomie concept by emile durkheim

Share Crime is Necessary Crime is necessary; it serves a function in society. Although it is not preferable, with the progression and evolution of modernity and emphasis on monetary success, crime is inevitable because a perfectly stable, uniform, and able society is impossible.

He asserts that man is a product of his social environment; thus, socialization begins at birth and continues through language and interaction with other people.

In less complex and more primitive societies, people tended to do and history in terms of crime and deviance was the industrial revolution. As this revolution evolved, there was a steep increase in immigrant migration into the United States.

With this increase in immigration and the evolution toward a more modern society came rising levels of individualism, flexibility, and diversity amongst natural belief systems.

This was the first sign of problems in the new society. Although these immigrants found no protest to their own belief systems, they failed to adapt them to the previously held norms the American people valued. Inevitably, there was a sense of imbalance between the previously held norms and values and the new and evolving ones.

In turn, Durkheim puts forth not just a theory for the social origins of crime, but also he theorizes about the social origins of law and punishment.

  • At the most general and all-inclusive level, Durkheim was a sociologist of morality Mestrovic, 1988; Turner, 1993;
  • Human passions stop only before a moral power they respect;
  • Ultimately, each theory revolves around the weight that the market economy holds in regards to the spirit and atmosphere of the cultural.

From this comes the conclusion that law is a production of the collective society, a myriad of all beliefs of society, an embodiment of everything a society holds to be right, true, and just.

Initially, Durkheim asserted that crime holds some religious qualities.

Durkheim's Anomie Theory

Crime became a deeply meaningful thing, very passionate and powerful, that ultimately prompted for very strong emotions, anger and vengeance specifically. Because of this, punishment was less about the offense or the offender and held more weight in regard to restoring the cohesion and core values of society. So what are these social origins of crime?

  • Looking back to the earlier time of human history, we can find that in the past, people can grasp knowledge in some different fields;
  • Merton defined a continuum of responses to anomie that ranged from conformity to social innovation , ritualism, retreatism, and, finally, rebellion.

As previously stated, the fragmentation amongst society from the evolution to a more industrial and modern society, and the anomic division of labor, provide the basis for crime and deviance. Drawing on statistics, he drew a correlation between suicide rates and social variables.

In other words, the individual and isolated people had a higher tendency for suicide than the collective and densely networked community because of their lack of cohesion and relationship with the collective conscience of society Smith, 2008.

More rare cases of altruistic and fatalistic suicide were common when an individual was too closely bound to the group. Ultimately, this study concluded that social cohesion, or group solidarity, and the values held to be true by the collective conscience could both prevent and generate deviant activity.

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Although there have been a small handful of direct examinations of Durkheim and his theories, there are a few studies that have analyzed more specific aspects of social disorganization and its effects. Theorists Gibbs and Martin, and later Miley and Micklin, focused on suicide and how the social integration enabled or inhibited such behavior. Census Bureau and the Uniform Crime Report done by Webb, found that relationship of population size, density, and proportion of communication, did not decrease the rates of crime.

There are various different perspectives on what anomie is and how it affects deviant behavior.

Ultimately, each theory revolves around the weight that the market economy holds in regards to the spirit and atmosphere of the cultural. In regard to crime, the emphasis on competition and materialism combined with anomic ethic, as theorists have termed it, spark a disregard for the moral status of the way in which one achieves goals.

Merton highlights an imbalance between the components of how a society is made up; however, Durkheim focuses on the social make up itself. Institutional anomie has become the primary basis to the concept of normlessness and the basis of crime and deviance in accord with the concept of anomie that Durkheim asserted initially.

In short, Institutional anomie describes a society in which economic values, like monetary success, penetrate non-economic institutions, like family, education, and policy. From there, community values and social bonds are weakened, ultimately causing social controls over self serving behavior, like deviance and crime, to be vastly reduced. Strain theory asserts that there is a discrepancy between culturally defined goals and the means available to achieve these goals.

Currently, the culturally defined goals are wealth and material success and that happiness is equivalent to these goals; thus, the institutionalized means to acquire these goals that are hard work and education.

Furthermore, it is widely accepted that those who do not succeed are inherently lazy or inept in some way. The institutionally defined means of education and hard work are only attainable by those who are wealthy or financially comfortable enough to access a formal education or well paying occupation.

As a result, or consequence, of this inability or unrealistic goal the middle and lower classes are subject too there is strain, or anomie. Therefore, this sense of anomie, imbalance, and division of labor justify the modes of adaptation the disadvantaged resort too.

So what does the criminal justice system do to avoid this? What are the policies put forth to deal with this inevitable dependence on crime?

Although difficult, it is essential to strengthen the non- economic social institutions, like church or public school educations. There must be less emphasis placed on the importance or status of private school education. In addition, it is necessary to equalize the opportunities for success. The lower level employees must have the same amount of opportunity that the upper level employees have, or once had.

The lesser employees must not be alienated within the workplace or held accountable for things that the upper level employees are excused of.

  1. The difficulty with the anomic division of labor, of course, is that such rules either do not exist or are not in accord with the degree of development of the division of labor. Individuals are said to be confronted with anomie when they are not faced with sufficient moral constraint, that is, when they do not have a clear concept of what is and what is not proper and acceptable behavior.
  2. It characterizes a condition in which individual desires are no longer regulated by common norms and where, as a consequence, individuals are left without moral guidance in the pursuit of their goals. Anomie is defined as a state of "normlessness.
  3. Human passions stop only before a moral power they respect. The current crack down on white-collar crime is an example of how the criminal justice system is working to even the playing field in the work place.
  4. Although difficult, it is essential to strengthen the non- economic social institutions, like church or public school educations.
  5. A society characterized by mechanical solidarity is unified because all people are generalists.

The current crack down on white-collar crime is an example of how the criminal justice system is working to even the playing field in the work place. Due to the fact that monetary success and status are the goals set by the collective conscience, as Durkheim would say, the criminal justice system has began to withdraw from the biased environment that causes this anomie and strive to balance the means by which success is attainable.

Works Cited Bernburg, J. Anomie, social change and crime.

British Journal of Criminology, 42 4729-742. The division of labor in society.

  1. Currently, the culturally defined goals are wealth and material success and that happiness is equivalent to these goals; thus, the institutionalized means to acquire these goals that are hard work and education. But this is viewed by Durkheim as an abnormal situation, because only in unusual situation does the modern division of labor reduce people to isolated and meaningless tasks and positions.
  2. If, for example, a society impelled its members to acquire wealth yet offered inadequate means for them to do so, the strain would cause many people to violate norms.
  3. To be sure, the strongest succeed in completely demolishing the weakest, or in subordinating them. The institutionally defined means of education and hard work are only attainable by those who are wealthy or financially comfortable enough to access a formal education or well paying occupation.
  4. As this revolution evolved, there was a steep increase in immigrant migration into the United States.
  5. Merton highlights an imbalance between the components of how a society is made up; however, Durkheim focuses on the social make up itself.

New York, Free Press of Glencoe.