His work discussed how culture and social structure could lead to high crime rates. He noted that the American culture places economic success at the top of social desirability. Basically Americas financial Everest. Attaining economic success, however, is not matched by what the “means” are for reaching the desired “goal.” This problem is then aggravated by the social structural component discussed by Merton, which highlights the structural barriers that limit individuals’ access to the legitimate means for attaining the goal of economic success.
Merton referred to this weakening of cultural norms as “anomie.” His adoption of the term “anomie” is based the weakening of the normative order in society, or, how institutionalized social norms may lose their ability to regulate individuals’ behavior. In particular, Merton said that institutionalized norms will weaken, and anomie will set in, in societies that place an intense value on economic success. When this occurs, the pursuit of success is no longer guided by the standards of right and wrong. Merton stated that there were a number of ways in which people may adapt to the “strains” brought on by the inability to secure financial success. He proposed that there was a number of adaptations possible in response to social systems that have anomie and blocked opportunities. These adaptations are: innovation, in which the goals are pursued but illegitimate means tend to be used; ritualism, in which the goals are abandoned and legitimate means are pursued; retreatism, in which the goals are abandoned as well as the means; and rebellion, in which the social structure – both goals and means – are rejected and a new structure is used. A fifth adaptation is conformity, in which the goals are accepted and pursued, along with the legitimate means. In Messner and Rosenfeld’s Crime and the American Dream, Merton’s anomie/strain theory was extended and partially reformatted. Although they agreed with Merton’s view of American culture, they found