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Today’s Agenda. Review Social Disorganization Central Concepts, Policy Implications Anomie / Strain Theories . Modern Social Disorganization Theory. Review of Social Disorganization. Macro (Neighborhood) level theory Explains why certain neighborhoods have high crime rates

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Today’s Agenda

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Today s agenda

Today’s Agenda

  • Review Social Disorganization

    • Central Concepts, Policy Implications

  • Anomie / Strain Theories

Modern social disorganization theory

Modern Social Disorganization Theory

Review of social disorganization

Review of Social Disorganization

  • Macro (Neighborhood) level theory

    • Explains why certain neighborhoods have high crime rates

  • Theory of “Places,” and not “People”

    • Not all people who live there are “crime prone,” in fact most are law-abiding

Race and crime

Race and Crime

  • Explanation for high crime/victimization rates in minority neighborhoods

    • Economic, social, and political reasons for interrupted flow out of neighborhoods

    • Cultural legacy

      • Code of the Streets

      • Cognitive Landscape

Social ecology policy implications

Social Ecology Policy Implications

▪Chicago Area Projects (CAP)

▪Mobilize local informal social organization and social control—creating “community committees”

▪Overcome influence of delinquent peers and criminal adults

▪Assign detached local adults to neighborhood gangs

▪Recreational programs designed to provide youth with associations with conventional peers and adults

▪Improve sanitation, traffic control, and physical decay

▪Produced mixed results

Social ecology policy implications1

Social Ecology Policy Implications

▪Neighborhood watch programs

▪Only successfully implemented in neighborhoods that are cohesive

  • Rob Sampson: the more (and more diverse) non-profit programs the better

    • After school programs, recreation, churches…

      ▪Urban-renewal projects

      ▪Cabrini Green and other high rise “projects”

    • New “mixed” ownership (section 8, partial subsidy, private ownership)

Social ecology policy implications2

Social Ecology Policy Implications

▪Implications for criminal justice system

▪Community policing

▪Active role working with neighborhood residents to identify and solve community problems

▪Reduces fear of crime

▪Little evidence of reduction in criminal behavior

▪Limit the Damage of Mass Incarceration

▪High levels of incarceration within a neighborhood might contribute to social disorganization: recent research = may have maxed out on any benefits

Group work


  • Watch for all elements of social disorganization

    • Ecological

    • Collective Efficacy

    • Cultural Values

  • Return to class when finished

Anomie or strain theories

Anomie or “Strain” Theories



Messner and Rosenfeld

Durkhiem s legacy

Durkhiem’s Legacy

Rapidly Changing


“Industrial Prosperity”


(Norms are Weakened)

Human Nature as

Insatiable; must

therefore cap or control

Social Ties Important

The Anomie/Strain Tradition

The Social Disorganization and “Informal Control”

Robert k merton

Robert K. Merton

  • Social Structure and Anomie (1938)

  • From Durkheim: Institutionalized norms are weakened in societies that place an intense value on economic success

  • Applied this to the United States

    • The “American Dream”

Conflict means and goals

Conflict: Means and Goals

  • Cultural Goal in U.S.?

    • This goal is universal

    • (The American Dream)

  • Institutionalized Means?

    • Due to the social structure in the U.S., the means are unequally distributed

    • Segment of society with no way to attain goal

Strain theory micro level


1. Conformity + +

2. Innovation + -

3. Ritualism - +

4. Retreatism - -

5. Rebellion +/- +/-

Strain Theory (Micro Level)

Criticisms of merton s strain theory

Criticisms of Merton’s Strain Theory

  • Is crime a “lower class” phenomena?

  • Cannot explain “expressive” crimes

  • Weak empirical support

  • Why do people “adapt” differently?

Agnew general strain theory

Agnew: General Strain Theory

  • Overhaul of Merton’s Strain Theory

  • Three sources of strain

    • Failure to achieve valued goals

    • Removal of valued stimuli

    • Can’t escape noxious stimuli

Agnew gst

Agnew (GST)

  • StrainNegative Affective States

    • Anger, fear, frustration, depression

  • In lieu of “Coping Mechanisms,” anger and frustration can produce delinquency

  • StrainNeg EmotionalDelinquency

Agnew gst1

Agnew (GST)

  • Tests of GST are more favorable

  • Is this theory a theory of “Strain” (in a sociological sense) or a theory of “STRESS?” (in a psychological sense)

Crime and the american dream


Messner and Rosenfeld

The legacy of merton

The Legacy of Merton

  • In “Social Structure and Anomie”:

    • “Modes of Adaptation” (micro)

    • Discussion of why U.S. might be crime prone (macro) than other countries

  • Messner and Rosefeld, in the 1980s, revisited the macro part of the theory

Elements of the american dream

Elements of the “American Dream”

  • Achievement

  • Individualism

  • Universalism

  • The “fetishism” of money

  • These elements encourage “Anomic conditions”

The american dream produces anomie


  • MERTON: Pursuit of financial success is “limited only by considerations of technical expediency.”

  • Lombardi: Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.

Institutions in society

Institutions in Society

  • Social institutions as the building blocks of society.

    • The Economy

    • The Polity

    • The Family

    • Education

Key issue for m r

Key Issue for M & R

  • These institutions sometimes have conflicting goals and values.

  • All societies can therefore be characterized by their distinctive arrangements of institutions

  • The U.S.? Economy Dominates: we are a “MARKET SOCIETY”

Indicators of economic dominance

Indicators of Economic Dominance

  • Devaluation of non-economic institutional functions and roles

  • Accommodation to economic requirements by other social institutions

  • Penetration of economic norms into other social domains

Implications of economic dominance

Implications of Economic Dominance

  • Weak institutional controls

    • Family and School are handicapped in efforts to promote allegiance to social rules

    • Single parent families

    • Poorly funded schools

    • “Weak institutions invite challenge”

Culture social structure and crime rates

Culture, Social Structure, and Crime Rates


The American Dream



Economic Dominance

Weak Institutional Controls


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