Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Summary: Social Structure and Anomie – Robert Merton

Robert Merton belongs to the functional paradigm in sociology and in the "Structure of Society and Anomie" goes out to some extent against Parsons and represents a critical current that accepts the functional assumptions about the social system and dynamics and points out shortcomings that the social structure brings with it.


Anatomy according to Merton - This is a situation where there is no fit between the norms and the values, this mismatch will create the social problems he presents in the article. (Unlike Durkheim who led the interest in anomie).

Merton’s explanation is structural, he tries to say how people will react to what is happening in the structure. There are certain norms that limit the ways in which we will reach the goal, there may be a contradiction between the norms and the values, there may be a change in values ​​but there is not enough change in the norms, technical norms may be used - the goal sanctifies the means. In American society there is a growing change, the technical norms are the effective way to reach the goal, for this Merton gives the example of sports scholarships.

American society is moving according to Merton to a state where the goal sanctifies the means, the crooks are valued, they manage to fulfill the values ​​of the company and reach the goals.

Merton gives in "Structure of Society and Anomie" a long example of the sanctification of the values ​​of success in American society, each of us can be a millionaire, but in fact there is an anomie - the means today do not really allow to reach the goal and yet American society tries to convey the message that anyone can succeed.


Different Patterns of Individual Adaptation:

Society according to Merton is made up of a group of individuals, although Merton divides them into socio-economic classes this is his view of society. The emphasis on the individual increases the functional aspect in him. According to the different position of each individual in the social structure there is a greater chance of a certain adaptation. Society puts pressure on everyone, some can reach a high status and some not, according to the social position there is a high probability that the individual will react in a certain way.


Conformity - In order for society to be stable, the majority must be in this group, these are the people who work hard, take advantage of opportunities by conventional means, not necessarily to say that they will succeed in achieving goals.


Innovation - stems from anomie, it's finding new ways because there are no existing ways, Merton claims that people are much more criminal than we think, the question is how much. He is referring here to white-collar crimes - upper and middle class, for the lower class it is an organized crime that brings social prestige. For Merton the people themselves are fine, the problem is in the functional structure, the class structure is not really open and most crime will take place in the lower class. Ceremonies - Bureaucratic people, Merton says most of them will be from the middle class because there is an education for certain values. Since they are middle class they will not reach the goals, they act according to the norms but do not really try to reach the goals


Abandonment - Homeless people, nomads, drug addicts, etc. are a foreign element in society and since they do not take part in the system of norms and values ​​of society they are not really part of it, their adaptation is private and isolated, most of them will be from the lower class.


Rebellion - takes the individuals out of the social structure, they do not accept the norms and offer an alternative, these are immigrant classes, middle / lower class who rise in social hierarchy, they are marked as traitors in society, there is an opening to talk about change, in the future they can organize groups The future in the social structure.


Criticism – Merton’s critique of functionalism is great but it does not offer an alternative, it is in the structure of Parsons but leaves an opening for future discussion.

see also: Mass Communication, Popular Taste and Organized Social Action / Lazarsfeld and Merton