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Robert K. Merton
 “Strain Theory”
Individual Level
Gap between economic aspirations (which all are encouraged to
pursue) and structural reality (limited opportunity)
 Policy Implications?
Increase opportunity for lower class youth
“Mobilization for Youth” Program
 Culture
THE “American Dream” mentality
 Social Structure
Unequal distribution of means for achieving the “American Dream”
 Problems?
Preoccupied with Lower Class
Addresses only “Economic Crimes”
Everyone focused on the MICRO level theory
Messner and Rosenfeld (1995)
 “The Road not Taken”
Focus on Anomie at Macro level
Why is U.S. so crime-prone?
 Culture = American Dream
 Social Structure = more than $
The Culture: Elements of the
“American Dream”
 Achievement
 Individualism
 Universalism
 The “fetishism” of money
 These elements encourage “Anomic conditions”
 MERTON: Pursuit of financial success is “limited only by
considerations of technical expediency.”
 Lombardi: Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
Social Structure More than Distribution of
 Social institutions as the building blocks of society (make
up social structure).
 Functions?
Allow us to adapt to the environment
Mobilize and deploy resources to achieve collective goals
Socialize members to accept society’s normative patterns
Institutions in U.S.?
 The Economy
 The Polity
 The Family
 Education
Key Issue for M & R
 These institutions sometimes have conflicting goals and
 All societies can therefore be characterized by their
distinctive arrangements of institutions
 The U.S.? Economy Dominates: we are a “MARKET
The “Market Society” as a play on words
 A capitalist economy is referred to as a free market or
“market” economy.
 The term “market society” suggests that the entire society
is dominated by the free market economy.
Indicators of “Economic Dominance” or a “Market
 Devaluation of non-economic institutional functions and
 Accommodation to economic requirements by other social
 Penetration of economic norms into other social domains
Implications of Economic Dominance
 Weak institutional controls
Family and School are handicapped in efforts to promote
allegiance to social rules
Single parent families
Poorly funded schools
“Weak institutions invite challenge”
Culture, Social Structure, and Crime Rates
Empirical Validity of IA theory
 New theory--only 2 good tests thus far
Both support IA, but have limitations
 Chamlin and Cochran
State level variations in non-economic institutions modify the effect of
poverty on economic crimes
 Messner and Roesnfeld
The “decommodification index” across countries predicts homicide rates
Policy Implications of IA
 The two main causes of crime are:
American Dream ethos (cultural)
Economic Dominance of other institutions (structural)
 Change “money fetish?”
Time for America to “grow up”
 Strengthen non-economic institutions?
Family, School...