Anomie Strain/ Differential Opportunity Theory

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Compare and Contrast; Anomie Strain and Differential Opportunity Theories

Introduction- This paper will cover Anomie Strain, and Differential Opportunity theory. This will be done by an overview and explanations of the two theories, and by comparing and contrasting the theories based on the explanations Robert Merton, Richard Cloward, and Lloyd Ohlin proposes. To begin, the question that inspired Robert Merton, Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin was to explore what was the cause and explanation of why delinquents commit delinquent acts. Robert Merton created and dedicated his research on this question that later developed into his theory that he named Anomie Strain theory. Using the framework of Robert Merton, Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin created their own theory in response, which is now known as the Differential Opportunity theory. A more in depth explanations of the theories would help give an in depth understanding of the similarities and differences of Anomie Strain Theory and Differential Opportunity Theory. This will help explain the question on why delinquents commit delinquent acts.

Anomie Strain was a Theory developed by an American Sociologist Robert Merton. The past works of Emile Durkheim influenced anomie strain theory, where the idea of anomie was first introduced as a state of normlessness. According to (Regoli, Hewitt and Delisi, 2010 p.190) described it as, ” A state where a normative structure is disrupted and a state of chaos results, which then produces a state of anomie, or a state with no social norms to follow.” Robert Merton then furthered Durkheim’s idea of anomie and produced what is now called anomie strain theory. Regoli et al. (2010) defined anomie as a, “Permanent disjuncture between cultural goals that are worth striving for, and institutionalized means or approved ways of reaching these goals”(pg.191). What this means is that in each society there are cultural goals that individuals would like to strive for, and there are institutions and approved ways that would help individuals reach their goals. For example, Regoli et al. (2010), “In the U.S. society, the cultural goals are to acquire wealth and status. The ways to achieve these ends were, getting a good education, obtaining job training, and pursuing career advancement”(p.190).

Now society is characterized by unequal access to legitimate means to the cultural goals. Robert Merton (1938), “The unequal access to legitimate means can be seen in individuals that are less fortunate than those who have an easier path to success. Some people have different qualities, resources, and environmental advantages. People are born Female or male, others have wealthy parents, and some are born in an environment that promotes and values education and hard work” (p. 674). All of these advantages are used in following and keeping the cultural goals of being wealthy, which is believed to be what U.S society is trying to achieve. Now there are some people who are less fortunate and do not have the advantages that others have. For these individuals access to proper means of achieving socially acceptable goals are blocked. Paths to a good education or a good job can be closed for some people, and can ultimately cause a problem, because those who are blocked to these opportunities will still desire to be wealthy and want to achieve high status, just like the individuals who are more privileged.

According to Regoli et al. (2010), “The main separation or the inequalities of the means and goals create strain”(p.191). Strain is always present in society, and Robert Merton identified five ways that people adapt to these frustrations or strain. This is known as, Merton’s 5 modes of adaptations. The 5 modes of adaptations consist of conformist, innovators, ritualists, retreatists, and rebellions. Robert Merton et al. (2010), “Conformists are people who accept both the goals of the culture and the social means of achieving them. Innovators are...
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