UPSC SOCIOLOGY – Paper 1 – SOCIOLOGICAL THINKERS – Robert K. Merton- Latent and manifest functions, conformity and deviance, reference groups
- Conformity is that action which is oriented to social norms or expectations. It falls within the toleration prescribed by the society.
- Deviance is non-conformity or deviating from the accepted path. Deviant in one society may be normal in other societies.
- Merton views Anomie as a part of the system and a general feature of society. He defines its as ‘A situation in which there is a discrepancy between culturally defined goals and structural means available to achieve them. Deviance is considered as a result of Anomie.
APPLICATION OF STRUCTURAL STRAIN AND DEVIANCE
- Merton gives the example of American dream.
- American Society places a great emphasis on material success but many people fail to achieve this success .
- It is because structural means are not sufficient.
- Only a few people reach at the top and this creates a feeling of depreciation among others.
- Not all groups of people have equal access to those means.
- The result is a structural strain that produces deviance.
- Lower class individuals are most likely to experience these strains.
- These individuals are more likely to turn to crime.
RESPONSES OF A DEVIANT PERSON
She accepts both goals and means and despite their utility or fairness, she keeps pursuing them. Eg: A student keeps on learning to get into a professional career (the goal) even though the method is not suitable for him.
It occurs when an individual accept culturally defined goals but reject socially accepted means. Innovators are imperfectly socialized. Eg: Scientists, Thieves.
A Ritualist accepts socially understandable means but fails to understand the goals. Eg: Red-tapism in bureaucracy.
It involves rejection of both means and goals. They are indifferent to socio-cultural norms and values. Eg: Alcoholics, vagrants, etc
Involves rejection of both goals and means and then the creation of new means and goals. Eg: Social Reformers
ANOMIE AS A DYSFUNCTION
- Anomie is a particular example of structural functionalism.
- The basic idea of Robert K. Merton’s anomie theory is that most people strive to achieve culturally recognized goals. A state of anomie develops when access to these goals is blocked to entire groups of people or individuals.
- As per his functional paradigm, he is mainly concerned with dysfunctions.
- Merton also introduces an element of criticism to the process of stratification in society which is seen as totally functional by the earlier structural functionalists.
- Merton refers to goals and means, but there may be other aspects of social structure which may cause Anomie.
- Albert Cohen argues that deviance is due to a specific subculture that members of a particular subgroup develops. Hence, it is collective in nature and not at an individual level as Merton has tried to prove.
- A person at different times may respond to the same type of social impetus differently. This shows that anomic behaviour depends on the individual as well.
- Lemert and Laurie Taylor argue that those who wield power also decide who will be deviant. Definitions of deviance don’t reflect consensus of society.