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Robert K. Merton . “Strain Theory” Individual Level Gap between economic aspirations (which all are encouraged to pursue) and structural reality (limited opportunity) Policy Implications? Increase opportunity for lower class youth “Mobilization for Youth” Program. MERTON II. Culture

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robert k merton
Robert K. Merton
  • “Strain Theory”
    • Individual Level
    • Gap between economic aspirations (which all are encouraged to pursue) and structural reality (limited opportunity)
  • Policy Implications?
    • Increase opportunity for lower class youth
    • “Mobilization for Youth” Program
merton ii
  • Culture
    • THE “American Dream” mentality
  • Social Structure
    • Unequal distribution of means for achieving the “American Dream”
  • Problems?
    • Preoccupied with Lower Class
    • Addresses only “Economic Crimes”
    • Everyone focused on the MICRO level theory
messner and rosenfeld 1995
Messner and Rosenfeld (1995)
  • “The Road not Taken”
    • Focus on Anomie at Macro level
    • Why is U.S. so crime-prone?
  • Culture = American Dream
  • Social Structure = more than $
the culture elements of the american dream
The Culture: 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.
social structure more than distribution of wealth
Social Structure More than Distribution of Wealth
  • Social institutions as the building blocks of society (make up social structure).
  • Functions?
    • Allow us to adapt to the environment
    • Mobilize and deploy resources to achieve collective goals
    • Socialize members to accept society’s normative patterns
institutions in u s
Institutions in U.S.?
  • 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”
the market society as a play on words
The “Market Society” as a play on words
  • A capitalist economy is referred to as a free market or “market” economy.
  • The term “market society” suggests that the entire society is dominated by the free market economy.
indicators of economic dominance or a market society
Indicators of “Economic Dominance” or a “Market Society”
  • 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


empirical validity of ia theory
Empirical Validity of IA theory
  • New theory--only 2 good tests thus far
    • Both support IA, but have limitations
  • Chamlin and Cochran
    • State level variations in non-economic institutions modify the effect of poverty on economic crimes
  • Messner and Roesnfeld
    • The “decommodification index” across countries predicts homicide rates
policy implications of ia
Policy Implications of IA
  • The two main causes of crime are:
    • American Dream ethos (cultural)
    • Economic Dominance of other institutions (structural)
  • Change “money fetish?”
    • Time for America to “grow up”
    • Push culture towards valuing “spousing, parenting”
  • Strengthen non-economic institutions?
    • Family, School...
exam i impending doom
  • Concern = few assignments thus far
  • Format = “Short Answer Essay”
    • More than: Describe Merton’s theory
  • For Each Theory
    • Central Concepts (and how they relate)
    • Empirical status (and how you might measure concepts)
    • Criticisms
    • Policy Implications