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A look at mertons modes of adaptation

This imbalance, in which some individuals particularly those of the lower- and lower-middle social classes are disadvantaged and have few prospects of reaching goals, produces a strain Gomme, As a result, such individuals are under considerable strain, to which they adapt in any one of five possible ways Gomme, The first, and most common, reaction to anomie is conformity.

Merton's Strain Theory

Most people are conformists. Conformists accept both the culturally-defined goals, and the societally-restriced means of achieving such goals, as legitimate.

They strive for success through the socially-acceptable avenues of educational and occupational advancement. The second possible reaction to anomie is that of innovation. Innovators are people who continue to embrace monetary and material success as a worthy goal Lilly et al. A similar example would be a drug dealer, who — like most conformists — desires wealth and social status, yet who attempts to achieve such ambitions through illegal activity Lilly et al.

  1. The first, and most common, reaction to anomie is conformity.
  2. Similarly, radical terrorists are examples of Mertonian rebels. Ritualists alleviate the strain of anomie by lessening their own aspirations of success to a point where goals are more practically attainable Gomme,
  3. Contemporary Marxists and socialists, for example, who advocate group rather than individual success, and who desire equal distribution of wealth, are threats to prevalent capitalist doctrine, and would be classified as rebels. A similar example would be a drug dealer, who — like most conformists — desires wealth and social status, yet who attempts to achieve such ambitions through illegal activity Lilly et al.

Innovators, however, are not necessarily violent or serious offenders: Ritualists alleviate the strain of anomie by lessening their own aspirations of success to a point where goals are more practically attainable Gomme, Ritualists tend to avoid taking risks such as law violationand are comfortable living within the confines of daily routines Lilly et al.

A telemarketer or agent in a customer service department, for example, may demonstrate a ritualistic response. While accepting that personal wealth and social prestige are unlikely life outcomes, he or she will behave conventionally and acceptably by working hard; it is likely, however, that he or she will revise goals to be better aligned with practical possibilities for example, by aiming to make the most commission, or be promoted to a supervisory role.

Similarly, bureaucrats and administrators who work in large institutions e. As they outwardly maintain conformity to socio-cultural norms and do not violate the law, ritualists are not seen as a threat to the social or organizational structure Gomme, The fourth adaptation reaction — possibly the most discouraging — is retreatism.

Texts by Alexandra Kapelos-Peters

Retreatists make a more dramatic response to the stress of anomie. A homeless person and an individual who withdraws from the educational system can also be said to exhibit retreatist reactions by relinquishing the desire to attain culturally-defined goals as well and by retreating from activities means to pursue such ends.

The fifth type of adaptation to anomie outlined by Merton is rebellion. Alienated from social and cultural structures, rebels propose new goals and means for success Lilly et al. Contemporary Marxists and socialists, for example, who advocate group rather than individual success, and who desire equal distribution of wealth, are threats to prevalent capitalist doctrine, and would be classified as rebels.

Similarly, radical terrorists are examples of Mertonian rebels: Deviance and Crime in Canada. Cullen, and Richard A. Thomas, and Howard Abadinsky.

  1. Alienated from social and cultural structures, rebels propose new goals and means for success Lilly et al. Most people are conformists.
  2. They strive for success through the socially-acceptable avenues of educational and occupational advancement. Innovators are people who continue to embrace monetary and material success as a worthy goal Lilly et al.
  3. Conformists accept both the culturally-defined goals, and the societally-restriced means of achieving such goals, as legitimate. Innovators accept societal goals but have few legitimate means to achieve those goals, thus they innovate design their own means to get ahead.