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Merton's Strain Theory - Coursework Example

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There are various other theories found in the sociology field. One of these other theories is the functional theory that explains how parts of the society contribute in expected and unexpected ways to the social order, disorder, or instability. …
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Mertons Strain Theory
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Download file to see previous pages Another theory is the conflict theory that focuses on conflicts over scarce and valued resources and the strategies used by dominant groups to create or protect the society. Moreover, there is symbolic interaction theory that focuses on social interaction and related concepts of self-awareness reflexive thinking, symbols and negotiated order. In addition to this, there is differential association theory, which states that criminal behavior is learned and thus explaining criminals constitute a special type of conformists who conform to the norms of the group with which they associate.
This structural strain theory explains that deviant behavior is a response to structural strain in which a disjuncture exists between culturally valued goals and legitimate means for achieving them. This theory considers three factors one of them being goals defined as both valuable in legitimate by all members of the society. According to Venkatesh (10) earning wealth through working was a goal defined as both valuable and legitimate by all members of the society. Moreover acquiring valuable education by the young men was also another goal that was defined as valuable and legitimate by all members of the Chicago community (Venkatesh 32). Another factor is norms that specify legitimate means of achieving those goals. Among the community of poor people of Chicago there was a norm that whatever a person is doing, he should make sure that it does not affect other people negatively (Venkatesh 34). This norm was used to distinguish between the legitimate means of achieving goals and the illegitimate ones. Another factor is the actual number of the legitimate opportunities available for achieving goals. In this community there were a limited number of legitimate opportunities for achieving goals since people had no work and were uneducated (Venkatesh 9). We can describe structural strain as any situation in which the valued goals have unclear limits, people are not certain that the legitimate means will allow them to achieve their goals and the legitimate opportunity for reaching these goals remain closed to a significant portion of the population. In such situations, the rate of deviance is expected to be very high and poverty is expected to be extremely high. Cases of structural strain is evident in almost the whole community of the poor people of the streets of Chicago and is expressed in different ways like the group leader being not sure whether working in selling office supplies and industrial textiles could enable him to achieve his goals and thus deciding to quit for the gangster life (Venkatesh 42). This theory explains that people respond in identifiable ways to structural strain and that their response involves some combination of acceptance and rejection of the valued goals and means of achieving them. These responses include conformity, innovation, ritualism, Retreats and Rebellion. Of these responses, it is only conformity, which is not a deviant. Conformity is the acceptance of cultural goals and the pursuit of those goals through legitimate means. In this case, focus is made both to the rules governing the process of achieving the goals as well as the targeted results. Conformity is seen from the strategy Venkatesh decided to use to study about the poor black people in the society. According to Venkatesh (32), the author decided to hang around gangsters so that he can understand how it felt to be poor and black. Innovation on the other hand is the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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