R. Merton has developed a typology of personality’s behavior in their relation to the purposes and means. According to this typology, the attitude to the goals and means of any person fits into the following classes:

1) the conformist accepts both cultural goals and institutional means, approved in society, and is a loyal member of society;

2) the innovator is trying to achieve cultural goals (which he or she accepts) by non-institutional means (including illegal and criminal);

3) the ritualist takes institutional means that he or she absolutizes, but he ignores or forgets the goals to which he should strive with the help of these means. Rituals, ceremonies and rules for these persons are the basis of behavior, at the same time, original, non-traditional means are usually rejected by them (an example of this kind of people may be a bureaucrat oriented only on formal accessories of business life, not taking into account the global purposes of this activity);

4) an isolated type departs from both cultural and traditional purposes, as well as from the institutional means that are necessary to achieve them (for example, alcoholics, drug addicts, ie any people outside the group);

5) the rebel is indecisive about both means and cultural goals; he deviates from existing goals and means, wishing to create a new system of norms and values ​​and new means to achieve them.

When using this typology, it is important to remember that people can never be completely conformable to a normative culture or fully innovators. In each person, to any extent, all of these types are present. However, one of the types usually approves itself largely and thus characterizes this person.

When moral norms prohibit the commission of certain actions that many individuals wish to accomplish, another phenomenon of deviant behavior arises, the norm of justification. People justify the realization of any forbidden desires and actions without an open challenge to existing moral standards by these cultural patterns. Most often, norms of justification are created there and then, where and when there is frequent violation of norms without subsequent sanctions. The norms of justification appear only if there is a pattern of violation that is recognized and sanctioned in one of the groups of society. This pattern will be considered the norm of justification. Once a group legalizes such actions, the justification loses its moral prohibitions. Consequently, it can be said that the norms of justification are semi-institutionalized forms of deviant behavior.

Robert Merton (1938) continued the development of Durkheim's theory. If for Durkheim anomie means the inability of society to regulate the natural impulses and desires of individuals, then, according to Merton, many desires of individuals are not necessarily "natural", but are more often due to the civilizing activity of the society itself. The social structure limits the ability of certain social groups to satisfy their desires. It pressurizes certain individuals in society, forcing them to behave not conformist, but illegal. The highest goal of Western civilization is the achievement of material prosperity and well-being. This accumulating well-being in principle equates to personal values ​​and merits and is associated with high prestige and social status. People without money are degrading. Civilization in the Western industrial society pushes all individuals to strive for the greatest possible prosperity. At the same time, there an egalitarian ideology exists that makes people think that every member of society has equal chances to achieve prosperity. However, no one expects that all people will achieve this goal, although everyone hopes to at least approach it, otherwise, he or she considered lazy and devoid of ambition.

Western civilization provides a person with an institutional means, approved by society, and proven norms of behavior to achieve this goal. The society demands observance of these norms by all its members, who want to "go up" in accordance with the civilizing goals. Institutional means in Western society are the values ​​of the middle layer, based on the Protestant ethic of labor. Achievement of the civilizing purpose (the material well-being) should be ensured by hard work, honesty, good education of people and anticipating satisfaction of their needs.

The violence and deception as methods of achieving the well-being are prohibited. A person who uses permitted methods gets less recognition in society if he or she does not achieve, at least, the level of well-being of the middle layer. That person, who has achieved a sufficiently high level of well-being, acquires recognition, prestige and high social status, even if he or she had used not institutional means or not socially structured ways. This cynical approach causes an increased demand for institutional means, has a special impact on the value perceptions of people who cannot achieve prosperity using permitted by society ways. They are, first of all, representatives of the lower strata. In these cases, the ability to achieve well-being is limited not only by a lack of talent or the required qualities of the individual, but also by the social structure itself. With the help of institutional means and methods, only those from the lower strata of society can achieve prosperity, which are very talented and work exceptionally stubbornly. For most of the representatives of the lower strata, this possibility is simply unrealistic, and therefore the influence of socially deviant behavior, delinquency and criminality, to which they are impelled by the conditions, is particularly strong. Thus, the following two factors lie at the basis of the strong pressure to which the value orientations of the population lower strata are exposed:

- The first is that Western civilization makes greater emphasis on achieving material prosperity, while declaring that everyone can achieve this goal.

- The second is that the very social structure essentially restricts the possibility for lower layers to achieve this goal in socially recognized ways.

Hence, the anomie, according to Merton, is the collapse of the regulating individual desires system, as a result of which the personality begins to want more than it can achieve within the framework of this social structure. Anomie is the uttermost divide between the declared civilizational goals and socially structured ways of achieving them. In the case of an individual, anomie is the eradication of its moral foundations. Personality at the same time is deprived of any sense of continuity, tradition, and of all obligations. Its connection with society is destroyed. Anomie is the absence of mental and social integration as well as the integrity of the individual and society as a whole. When value and social structures are poorly integrated, when the very structure of values ​​requires certain behavior and views, and the social structure hinders this, then this leads to an anomie, to the collapse of all norms, to the absence of all legal norms. Merton distinguishes five types of individual adaptation:




facilities, goals, means














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By conformism, he understands the harmonious combination of the proclaimed civilizing goals and the structural ways to achieve them. Conformism is a symbol of social stability.

With all the civilizational hope for their success in achieving the goal, those who chose innovation as the main type of adaptation understand that they cannot always achieve this by the socially accepted path. Then they turn to the institutionally not allowed, new and often very effective means. Therefore, businessmen try to reach the desired by various economic violations. Employees commit thefts from their employers.

Ritualism suggests a strong understatement of civilizational goals or even a complete rejection of them for as long as the demands of each one are not satisfied. Ritualism means forced, convulsive clinging to institutional norms.

When a person can not achieve the civilizing purpose by legitimate and even illegitimate means for a long time, he or she begins to react to this by refusal, apathy, reclusion, which is also a kind of adaptation. These "descended from the train" people live in this society simply nominally, not being included, into it. These include mentally ill, alcoholics, drug addicts, rejected by society, vagrants, and homeless people. They do not feel they belong to their civilization. They do not see the real possibility of success. The society often criminalizes reclusion, publishes laws against vagrancy, drunkenness in public places and drug abuse.

In case of rebellion, old goals and methods are rejected. They are replaced by new goals and methods. Examples of insurgency as a form of adaptation are revolutions and alternative forms of existence. The rebellion brings to life such criminal acts as killing attempts, bomb explosions or violent riots.

These types of adaptation are not characteristics of the individual. They only provide a visual representation of what kind of behavior the individual chooses as a response to the growing anomie. There was an attempt to explain the forms of adaptation through the example of sports. If the winnings in sports are exaggerated, then those who are not able to win by the rules would get a significant motivation for deception (innovation). However, they can continue to play sports even without hope of success (ritualism). They can also stop playing sports (leaving the world). They can start another sport (rebellion).

The theory of anomie, proposed by Merton that focuses specially on the specific behavior of the lower layers, were criticized in two aspects:

  1. According to Merton's theory, deviant behavior, wrongfulness and criminality are seen as a sharp, sudden and abrupt change in views (adaptation) under the influence of anomie. This is an incorrect approach, because it does not reflect reality. Deviant behavior, offense and crime do not arise as a result of conscious choice, as a mechanical reaction to the action of some factor or a combination of factors in a particular situation, but in the process of interaction in the course of a continuous adaptation of the subject and his or her reaction to the actions of others.
  2. According to modern studies of hidden crime, deviance, illegality and crime are not inclusive or even predominantly a problem of the lower strata of the population. Nevertheless, even if this were so, the Merton theory of anomie does not explain why the bulk of the representatives of the lower strata behave conformist in society. Meanwhile, according to Merton, the anomie extends to all lower layers.
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