How does Merton’s Strain Theory work?

Published on 19th November 2017 by

How does Merton’s Strain Theory work?

Video Resources

  1. Video Topic Questions Worksheet
  2. Cornell Notes

Snippet from the Video:

Merton’s theory explains how both deviant as well as normal behaviour can occur from the same goals. Both innovators and conformists are pursuing money success, one illegitimately, the other legitimately.
He argues that this produces a strain to anomie where people learn to adapt in different ways.

  • General assumption: societies provide both culturally-valued goals and culturally-valued means.
  • Goals are based on shared assumptions in a society about what people should strive for, that is, what constitutes success for example a nice car, iPhone and so on.
  • The means are how you’re supposed to obtain the goals e.g. through a good education or working hard.
  • Imbalance can occur between the goals and the means (not everyone get the goals society wants them to), which leads to Strain (something like an unpleasant emotional condition)

Merton argues that this could lead to anomie, which individuals could respond to in different ways according to Merton’s merton’s five modes of adaptation. These issues are explored in this A-Level Sociology video – enjoy!

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