Merton's strain theory in relation to shoplifting.

Essay by simple22University, Bachelor'sB, October 2005

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Merton used Durkheim's concept of anomie to form his own theory, called Strain Theory. Merton argued that anomie is not created by dramatic social change, but rather by a social structure that holds the same goals to all its members without giving them equal means to achieve them. Merton stated that all members of a capitalist society have goals such as "wealth, status and personal happiness", (Merton, 1938) and that the means available to achieve this success are unevenly distributed throughout society. Merton believes that this lack of integration between society goals and what society realistically permits causes the less dominant or lower class group to suffer 'strain' which results in alternate or illegitimate ways of achieving those goals. (Merton, 1938)

Merton did not mean that everyone who was denied access to society's goals became deviant. He presented five modes of adapting to strain. Conformity is the most common mode of adaptation.

Individuals accept both the goals as well as the prescribed means for achieving those goals. Conformists will accept, though not always achieve, the goals of society and the means approved for achieving them. The people who make up this unit are mostly middle and upper-class individuals. The innovators are typically lower-class people who desire a high-class life and focus on achieving it. Their means of success would be ones such as robbery, embezzlement or other such criminal acts. Ritualism, the third adaptation, is made up of the people who abandon the goals they once believed to be within their reach and dedicate themselves to their current lifestyle; they play by the rules and have a daily safe routine. Retreatism is the adaptation of those who give up not only the goals but also the means. They often retreat into a world of alcoholism...