The Maximizer: Clarifying Merton's Theories of Anomie and Strain

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Daniel S. Murphy Ph.D., Professor Emeritus (Creator)
Matthew B. Robinson Ph.D., Professor (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
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Abstract: Robert Merton's (1957) theories of anomie and strain are among the most widely examined theories of criminality. Messner and Rosenfeld's (1994) theory of institutional anomie built on Merton's conception of anomie, delineating how specific institutions lead to conditions of anomie and criminality. Cloward and Ohlin's (1961) theory of differential opportunity built upon Merton's strain theory, underscoring the fact that those involved in illegitimate means of opportunity require a set of learned skills as do those involved in legitimate means. In this tradition, the present paper further expands Merton's theories of anomie and strain, suggesting that Merton's categories of conformist and innovator are not mutually exclusive. In fact, some individuals combine both legitimate and illegitimate means of opportunity in pursuit of the American Dream. The Maximizer, the authors suggest, merges elements of both the conformist and the innovator (i.e. legitimate and illegitimate means). The present paper explores the justification for merging legitimate and illegitimate means of opportunity in pursuit of the American Dream

Additional Information

Murphy, D., & Robinson, M.. (2008). The Maximizer: clarifying Merton's theories of anomie and strain. Theoretical Criminology, 12(4), 501. DOI: 10.1177/1362480608097154 - SAGE
Language: English
Date: 2008
Criminology, American Dream , anomie

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