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Merton's 'Social Structure and Amonie:' The Road Not Taken

NCJ Number
Deviant Behavior Volume: 9 Issue: 1 Dated: (1988) Pages: 33-52
S F Messner
Date Published
21 pages
The thesis of this paper is that Robert Merton's essay 'Social Structure and Anomie' contains two analytically distinct theorectical arguments, a theory of social organization and a theory of deviant motivation.
The theory of social organization discusses the articulation of components of social systems, whereas the theory of deviant motivation addresses the sources of pressures on individuals to violate social norms. These two theories employ similar terms and are joined to deal with a principal substantive concern for Merton, namely, the distribution of deviant behavior within social structure. I argue, however, that the two theories are not logically interdependent. Evidence inconsistent with one is thus not necessarily inconsistent with the other. Moreover, I suggest that the theory of social organization warrants greater attention than it has received to date because it is the more original and lucid of the two theoretical arguments, and because it has the potential for generating a promising research agenda. (Publisher abstract)


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