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Anomie and Deviation--A Conceptual Framework for Empirical Studies

Author(s): Gordon Rose

Source: The British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 17, No. 1 (Mar., 1966), pp. 29-45
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SINCE MERTON REPRINTED his well known essay on
'SocialStructureand Anomie'in SocialTheory andSocialStructure
a good deal of workhas been done both in elaboratingthe theory
and in tryingto test it out. A recentvolume (Clinard,et al., I964) not
only surveysthe existingworkvery competently,but adds some new
evidenceand a commentby Mertonupon what he emphasizesis the
developing theory of anomie.
In his article Merton refers to some discrepancies between socio-
logists in their interpretation of the term 'anomie', and he is wise to do
so as a glance through a number of sociological texts will show. R. M.
Williams (1951, pp. 53-7), for instance, quotes the Mertonian cultural
goals-structural limitations analysis as one type only of anomie, and
refers to 'cultural apathy with respect to standards of conduct'; which
seems to imply withdrawal. He also, however, refers to conflict situa-
tions in general. Johnson (1961, pp. 557-8) emphasizes ambivalency of
attachment to norms, and it is not clear whether he means conflicting
norms or individual reaction against accepted norms. He adds that
there is also some widely effective structuraldefect, although he mainly
emphasizes the conflict aspect, saying that anomie can be due to role
conflict. Bell (1961, pp. 190-I) refers to 'the lack of goals or the over-
emphasis on goal attainment'. It is usual to equate anomie with
'normlessness', but Bierstedt (1957, p. I77), taking a very literal view of
normlessness,points out that 'A situation of complete normlessness,or
anomie, would be intolerable, and no normlessor anomic society could
long endure'. Cohen (1959), using the analogy of a game the rules of
which may not be observed,also seems to equate anomie with complete
breakdown. Parsons (1937, p. 291) refers at one point to it as 'a polar
type' (though polarities and continua are often confused in Parsons),
* B.Sc.(Econ.), B.Litt., Ph.D., Reader in Social Administration,University of Man-
c 29

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and Rex neatly avoids the danger by referring to 'perfect anomie', as
the opposite of 'perfect co-operation' (196 p.
r, 54).
Some confusion has arisen because of differences in the use of the
original Durkheim conception. The original statement of anomie in
The Division of Labourrefers primarily to a breakdown of the regulatory
mechanisms to which the term 'normlessness' might well refer. In
Suicide, however, Durkheim is dealing with what might be described as
special cases of anomie: where either the ends outstrip the means, as in
prosperity; or the ends remain the same and the means are severely
restricted, as in depression. It would not be profitable to enter into a
textual argument as to how Durkheim intended these to be related, but
Durkheim I (Division of Labour) is not quite the same as Durkheim II
(Suicide), and a good deal depends upon the emphasis given by a
particular writer.


It is important to be clear what one is talking about. It is very easy

to confuse the causes of anomie and the results of anomie with the
meaning of anomie itself. In this article I shall discuss the meaning of
the term first, then Merton's contribution to causation and various
criticisms and some other points of view; and then the question of
results, or adaptations.
Merton has made a very clear distinction between social and in-
dividual anomie and the latter has subsequently been called 'anomia'.
In terms of theoretical analysis the distinction is justified. Anomie refers
to a situation in which norms lose their validity to some degree, i.e.
where there is uncertainty about the right way to behave in a social
situation in the light of what can be expected of others.
The first thing to note about the sociological concept of anomie is that it is
--sociological. Anomie refers to a property of a social system, not to the state
of mind of this or that individual within the system. It refers to a breakdown
of social standards governing behaviour and so also signifies little social
cohesion. When a high degree of anomie has set in, the rules governing con-
duct have lost their savor and their force. Above all else, they are deprived
of legitimacy. They do not comprise a social order in which men can con-
fidently put their trust. For there is no longer a widely shared sense within the
social system, large or small, of what goes and what does not go, of what is
justly allowed by way of behaviour and of what is justly prohibited, of what
may be legitimately expected of people in the course of social interaction.
There is nothing obscure or mysteriousabout these abstractions.For example,
a degree of anomie has set in among the masses of New Yorkerswho throng
the subways when they can no longer be confident that, in the main, they
can take their rides in reasonable security if not in sybaritic comfort, but
rather find themselves in fear that they may be violently attacked by some of
their fellow passengers.A degree of anomie has set in when men and women

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hesitate to frequent parks once set aside for the public convenience for fear
that they will be assaulted rather than refreshed in these surroundings. A
degree of anomie obtains when social relations are hesitantly entered into in
the reality-based fear of being double-crossed, of being taken in, of being
deceived by partners to the relationship. And a degree of anomie obtains
when men withdraw their allegiance from a structure of social stratification
which requires that they accept a permanent disadvantage in the quest for
the good things of life, when they reject the social arrangements which keep
what they regard as their legitimate aspirations from becoming reasonable
expectations, when for many abilities can find no outlet worth the effort. In a
word, the degree of anomie in a social system is indicated by the extent to
which there is a lack of consensus on norms judged to be legitimate, with its
attendant uncertainty and insecurity in social relations. For if norms are not
shared, then one cannot know what to expect of the other, and this is a social
condition admirably suited for producing insecure relations with others.
(Merton, 1964, pp. 226-7.)
This is not quite as clear as it sounds, since a good deal depends upon
the degree to which this legitimacy loss is incurred. None of us are
entirely certain about the actions of others, and there is little point in
a term which covers almost every situation in which one finds oneself.
The intention is clearly that there needs to be such a degree of legitimacy
loss that one must face up to the possibility of behaviour change, e.g.
not riding on the subway at night.
Secondly the types of norms involved are of considerable importance.
As Durkheim points out there is a state of chronic anomie in the sphere
of business, but he might well have said this about any transaction in
which the actor is unable through lack of knowledge to predict the
actions of others. It may be that the norms here limit the range of
uncertainty (e.g. Robinson may disagree with me, but he will not cut
my throat), but even these may go if there is great distrust and unpre-
dictability. Third, the range of behaviour covered may be of consider-
able importance. It may well be that too narrow a definition is unwise
since the particular situation may be avoided, e.g. one can travel by bus
rather than on the subway. Norms should therefore here be interpreted
rather in terms of a complex of norms covering a range of behaviour.
On the other hand, too wide a definition produces a concept of norm-
lessness which is far too vague to be of any use to the empirical worker.
Fourth, it is surely important that the legitimacy loss must lead to a
degree of unhappiness. Many people like uncertainty, businessmen and
diplomatists particularly, and can live happily with the minimum of
norm legitimacy in certain areas. This point emphasizes the previous
one that the type of norm is important.
It may be that we are trespassing in making these points, upon the
adaptations to anomie, but I do not think so. Anomie, as I use the term,
is a loss of normlegitimacysufficientto causeavoidancebehaviour.In my view
the term is defective in failing to indicate clearly what it means, and it

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has in any case been so loosely used as to become debased,1and I would
prefer the term legitimacyloss as a shorthand for the above phrase. I
propose to use it below except where it is necessary to refer to other
people's work.
As stated above the division between anomie and anomia is theoretic-
ally justified, but difficult to maintain in practice because any attempt
to study them involves looking at what are in effect different aspects of
the individual personality. The definition above implies 'unhappiness'
which refers to an emotional state, whereas the most important term,
'loss of norm legitimacy', refers to values and ethical judgments. It is
probably true that one can distinguish to some extent a feeling-state of
being 'lost', but it is not very easy to define and measure and even more
difficult to link with particular causes. It may, for instance, derive
largely from poverty, or from pathological personality. I shall discuss
Srole's anomia scale later.
A definition involving norms must necessarilyalso imply a definition
of the area of the social system to which they refer, geographical as well
as in terms of strata, or institutions. This I call 'the referent area'. The
referent area is the area of the social system from which the norms
referredto are derived. This may be geographical and usually has some
geographical element, but its basis is those ways of thinking which have
arisen through imbibing the ideas and opinions of significant others, of
groups, or from other sources such as the mass media. There may well
be cross strata referents as in Merton (1957) and Cohen (1955). The
referent area is grossly neglected in most social surveys, and this may
be very dangerous. Questions are often interpreted, as experiencedfield
workersknow, in the light of a frame of referencewhich is unexpected
by the questioner, and the answersmay thereforebe misleading. There
may well be an important difference between the immediate referent
areas (e.g. the gang, in which status management is of majorimportance
(Short, 1964, p. 121)) and the wider referent areas from which come
the 'middle class' imperatives favoured by Merton and Cohen.


Under this heading we first of all need to consider some generalities.

Merton's description quoted above refers to a condition of weakened
norms. It is common to refer to a situation in which there is a good deal
of legitimacy loss of 'respectable'norms as anomic, and this may be due
to their weakness. It may also, however, be due to unresolved conflict
between norms; a situation where both respectable and deviant norms
exist, and it is not clear to which the subject should adhere. This is the
situation envisaged by Kobrin (1951), and the fact that the majority of
deviant adolescents do not remain so in adulthood gives great colour to
this suggestion. Ganging often accentuates the conflict, and the greater

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the structuring of the gang the more there is the likelihood of an

apparent break with 'respectable' society.
In this connection we must avoid thinking in what might be described
as an anthropomorphic way. It does not follow that because intellectual,
middle class sociologists tend to resolve conflicting value systems that
everyone does so. Most people, and particularly those in the lower lower
class, do not think conceptually with any ease and may not recognize
the need to reconcile opposing ideas or behaviour, or may rationalize
inconsistent behaviour with stereotyped phrases (see Bernstein, 1958,
1961). It is, therefore, possible to hold apparently irreconcilable views
and to act sometimes upon one principle and sometimes on another
without causing distress to oneself or others.
A further situation, suggested by Cohen (1959, P- 48I), is where
knowledge of norms is imperfect. This is a common condition of
adolescence, as anyone who has ever tried to talk to youth club members
or boys in correctional institutions will appreciate.
We, therefore, distinguish three types of situation related to norms:
very weak norms where the accent is on the strength of attachment;
norm conflict, where the norms are strong but conflicting, leading to
uncertainty in their legitimacy; and norm ignorance, where the uncer-
tainty is simply due to imperfect knowledge.
This analysis has a bearing upon the usual equation anomie = norm-
lessness. This is in a sense true, but it depends very much what one
means by normlessness, and since in some situations the norms may be
very strong (in the Merton thesis, one suspects), it is misleading to use
this without qualification. Both the concepts of anomie and normless-
ness are derived from Durkheim I, but they are much too generalized
to be helpful, and need qualification both in the sense of what is said
above, and in the light of Durkheim II.


Clinard summarizes the criticisms of the Mertonian thesis under a

number of headings:

(I) It is claimed that the theory conceives of an atomistic and individual-

istic actor who selects adaptations to the social system, and in so doing fails
to stress the importance of interactions with others, who serve as reference
groups for the actor. The actions of significant others affect the response and
adaptation of the actor. (2) The deviant act is seen as an abrupt change from
the strain of anomie to deviance, rather than as an event which has been
built up through the interactional process. (3) Many deviant acts can be
explained as part of role expectations rather than disjunctions between goals
and means. (4) The dichotomy of cultural goals and institutional means,
basic to anomie theory, may be so artificial as to have little meaning, since
both are so linked in reality. (5) It is difficult to identify a set of values or
cultural goals which could be considered universal in most modern, complex,

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industrial societies. The ends sought grow out of multivalue claims made on
individuals participating in diverse groups. (6) The concept of anomie best
explains deviant behaviour in societies where status is achieved; a different
explanation may be needed where status is ascribed. (7) There is doubt that
deviant behaviour is disproportionately more common in the lower class as
the theory of anomie maintains. More studies of the incidence and pre-
valence of deviant behaviour are needed before what is assumed by theory
can be stated as fact. (8) Even if it is assumed that there is a higher rate of
deviation in the lower class, there is the further question of why the bulk of
the lower class uses conformity to achieve prescribed goals. (9) The theory
stressesthe importance of position in the social structure and ability to reach
cultural goals. Such factors as subcultures, urbanization, and, especially, the
role of group or collective adaptations are not normally taken into account.
Short has pointed out in his paper that among lower class gang boys, middle
class values are appreciated, but status is linked with more immediate on-
going processes rather than ultimate ends. (Io) At the level of social control
an important theoretical problem in explaining deviation is how deviant
behaviour originates and how certain deviations lead to symbolic reorganiza-
tion at the level of self-regarding attitudes and roles while others do not. The
societal elements isolating and reacting to deviants are largely disregarded.
(1i ) Finally, the adaptation of retreatism has been challenged, particularly
as an explanation of drug addiction, as lacking precision and as an over-
simplification of the processof self-evaluation. (Clinard,et al., 1964, pp. 55-6.)

It is not, of course, surprising that a general hypothesis, briefly

expressed, should fail to explain everything, and the assumption that it
should, which underlies these criticisms, is misconceived. The real
problem is not that Merton does not explain everything, but in the
inability of his framework to be both wide enough and specific enough
to generate a range of testable hypotheses. In saying this I do not under-
estimate the great service which both Merton and Cohen have done to
this part of the subject by stimulating a number of studies which have
already produced extremely useful results, particularly those of J. F.
Short, Jr. (1963 (a) and (b); 1964; Short, Tennyson and Howard, 1963;
Gordon, et al., 1963). As Short points out, however, both of these
theorists, though much more down to earth than many, are difficult to
operationalize and the results of the studies made show far greater
complexities than are theoretically allowed for.
The attraction of Merton's hypothesis is not so much the cultural/
structural opposition, ingenious as this is. It lies on the one hand in the
choice of the goal, and on the other in the possibility of explaining a rise
in the incidence of deviation in a period of prosperity; something which
follows directly from Durkheim II upon which the article is based.
The choice of the material success goal, which is associated with prop-
erty, may have some effect on the form of the deviation which results
from its non-attainment, but the real point is the development of
frustration due to blockage. The cultural/structural hypothesis, though

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developed some time beforehand is, however, surely a special case of

'relative deprivation' (Merton, I957, ch. 8), and the deviation-
producing phenomenon is the development of frustration within the
frameworkof relative deprivation. This means that the structureof the
field of reference2is of great importance, and one of the difficulties of
the field studies has been in deciding what is meant by 'success' or by
Cohen's 'middle class status' (Gordon, et al., 1963, p. I 13). The tendency
has been to define this in educational and occupational terms and to try
to assesswhether the group studied aspiresto a higher status than their
reasonableexpectations. Short, for instance, comparesoccupational and
educational aspirations and expectations and uses the discrepancy as a
measureof what he calls 'position discontent'. This may be a measureof
aspiration; it may also be a measure of the proportion of the upwardly
mobile in the population studied. A similar comparison (mothers'
aspirationsfor the school child, as against his achievementsand abilities,
and teachers'ratings) has been used by Douglas (1964). The proportion
may well be low in Short's gang sample, but it surely cannot be main-
tained as Merton does (1957, p. I72) that it is enough for 'an appreci-
able minority' of the lower social strata to show a blockage. These may
as well be the people who are unsettled because of success through the
educational/occupational ladder as through failure; and successmay be
measured by themin much less distant terms than those suggested by
Short's work shows that much greater emphasis needs to be placed
upon the frame of reference of the boy, and this is confirmed by Gold
for both boy and family (1963, ch. 7). It is clear that what we are
dealing with is relative deprivation within the frame of referenceset by
the limited terms in which the actor sees his world. This does not
exclude the success motif, of course, but it also does not mean that it is
of primary importance; indeed this appears not to be the case. Results
which tend to favour the supremacyof the thesis are either, like Spergel
(1964), based upon dubious samples, or depend like Palmore and Ham-
mond (1963) and Mizruchi (1964) upon somewhat devious argument.
A much more soundly based study by Kleiner and Parker (1963)
demonstratesa relation between frustrationand mental illness. This is
interesting evidence, but does not explore very deeply relations between
frustration (here occupationally defined) and other social factors such
as vertical mobility.
I do not propose to deal with all the points raised by Clinard. In
particular, (6) above is not very relevant (except in so far as age
related lower class behaviour might be described as ascribed); (7)
depends upon a seriesof factual studies; and (io) is a question of process
needing separate study. Role expectations (3) are important, but much
of what I say here in terms of norms could be rewritten in terms of role
expectations. They are a corollary of Merton's and my own definitions

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of anomie, both of which are concerned with what one expects of others;
whereas role expectations are what others expect of the actor. An
analysis starting from this basis would thus represent the reverse of the
coin. In the present context, however, we start from anomie since this
has played a central role in the controversies. For the rest, the reader
will see that they are taken up in different forms in various parts of
this article.


Short leans towards a cultural hypothesis rather than towards the

Merton type of frustration thesis. Presumably Miller (1958) is at present
engaged in developing at length his 'focal concerns', but it is clear that
a frame of reference which is seen largely in working class terms provides
a wide range of possibilities both for frustration and for acculturation
theories (the English material has recently been ably summarized in
Klein, 1964). In so far that there are middle class referents they are
likely to refer to the upwardly mobile. The 'privatized' worker (Gold-
thorpe and Lockwood 1963) or the 'respectable' worker (Stacey, 1960;
Kuper, 1953) provides standards which are much more likely to be
points of reference for the working class itself. Attitudes towards aggres-
sion, and property and excitement seeking, are of considerable import-
ance, as Miller points out, and while we do not have any English studies
covering these points very clearly, there are distinct echoes of Miller in
The Social Backgroundof Delinquency(Sprott, et al.,
The cultural/structural analysis is, of course, based upon Durkheim's
Suicide, and, as pointed out previously, one of its major attractions is its
relevance to the present-day scene. It is no accident that Merton's essay
remained unhonoured and unsung until it was reprinted in his Social
Theoryand Social Structurein 1957. Cloward and Ohlin (I960, ch. 3) are
able to dispose neatly of opposing hypotheses by showing that they fail
on various points of explanation, but, so would Merton if he had not
been given such a comprehensive and extended treatment by his two
disciples; the other propositions stated are much less well worked out.
The cultural hypothesis would need to assume considerable changes in
the culture, the reaction of adolescents to it, or police attitudes to arrest
in order to encompass the rise in crime since the war. On the other hand
it seems equally surprising that the emphasis on the success goal in the
192O's and 1930's in the U.S. and the even greater educational block-
ages did not produce higher crime rates than the post-war figures. And
no convincing theory has been put forward to explain the recent
extreme rapidity of the increase in a number of countries. Little (1965)
has recently made an analysis of the relevant figures which supports the
indication in the high first offender success rates that a considerable
proportion of the increase is in a more wide-spread but not persistent

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criminality. This provides backing for the contagion and cumulation

theory put forward by Wilkins (1964), but there seems to be no indica-
tion why a critical point was reached in England about 1956 after a
declineover several previous years, nor what factors are likely to stop the
cumulation before it engulfs the nation.
The underlying criticism of a simple frustration or cultural theory is,
however, that it is simple. It is difficult to believe that any of the
hypotheses which have been put forward are as overriding as their pro-
genitors seem to think. The real answers, as Short's work shows, are
liable to be exceedingly complex, and to have elements of all hypo-
theses. In this caucus race no doubt everybody will win, and, as in the
original, everyone ought to have a prize.
There is far too little work upon which to base any clear analysis at
present but some things seem very important:
I. The nature of the internal structure of what is loosely referred to
as 'the working class' by all the American contributors to this field is of
considerable importance. The referents are probably based much more
upon working class culture than middle class culture, and may vary
according to stratum. It is Kobrin's view (1951) that there is a persisting
opposition of conventional and deviation producing forces in which the
latter seem to be stronger in adolescence, but the former eventually
succeed in early manhood. This is referred to above as strong norm
conflict. Miller has not yet produced anything upon the balance of these
forces, and only refers to those likely to produce trouble. Much of the
work, however, which is cast in terms of middle class norms may well
refer to the conventional or 'respectable' working class norm, and
measures of the degree to which such attitudes are held are in fact
measures of norm conflict which may or may not relate to a situation of
relative deprivation.
2. The understanding of relative deprivation and the degree to which
it is present depends upon knowledge of the norms of working class
3. A particularly difficult problem is the degree to which norms are
internalized, since it is not impossible for conventional ideas to be
accompanied by anti-social behaviour, without reconciliation within
the individual. Internalization depends partly upon culturally con-
trolled ability to cope with concepts, partly on levels of intelligence and
partly upon the degree to which behaviour is dominated by irrational
elements stemming from abnormalities of personality. The strength of
their combined effect probably grows as one moves down the strata.
4. It should not necessarily be assumed that the goals concerned are
community goals. As pointed out above, it is not in practice possible to
separate community and individual and it is thus, on the operational
level, neither sensible nor practicable to think in terms of a purely
sociological analysis. Standards set for the individual by himself and

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only distantly related to community pressures may often enough

dominate his thinking, and may lead to behaviour which cannot be
accounted for by analysis of the social system in which he lives.
It should perhaps be added that the situation in America does not
necessarily have a counterpart elsewhere. The American scene is
dominated by mass poverty and serious minority problems. This may
make the relative deprivation of poverty in plenty more acute, but it is
also likely to curtail the referent area of those who experience it. The
fact of rising discontent does not necessarily imply adherence to a
remote economic success goal, or indeed to any specific institutional
blockage, but to an increased belief that hardship and rejectioncan and
ought to be lessened.
In England, on the other hand, while the possibility of relative
deprivation remains, there is little poverty and the minority problem is
not serious. If relative deprivation is operating it must be of a different
nature, but it is again unlikely to be related to distant goals.
The pattern of criminality in England is also relevant, and rather
more is known about it than in America or indeed in most countries.
There appears to be a large and an increasing number of first offenders
the large majorityof whom do not re-appearin the courts. On the other
hand the persistentoffenderseems to be more often a highly maladjusted
personality than a happily adapted professionalcriminal. The general
picture is of widespreadlaw breakingof a minor character, of which the
police pick up probably a not very large percentage; minor but effective
punishment on detection; and then a gradual concentration upon a
stage army of repeated offenders. It may be that these are the failures
and there are successful criminals who rarely get caught, but it is at
least sensible to suppose (as Ericksonand Empey, 1963, show for a U.S.
sample) that repeated offending heightens the probability of capture.
The amount of group violence, incidentally, seems to be much exag-
gerated in both England and the U.S., but the general level of violence
seems higher in the U.S.


We have now to consider the question of resolution of the strains due

to legitimacy loss. It is surely somewhat odd that in speaking of 'the
modes of adaptation' Merton implies that an adaptation must take
place, and his well known little table seems to suggest that a position of
rest is reached by most people. If a state of anomie continues then
presumably it must be maintained by those who are on the way to an
adaptation which will remove this unpleasant condition, or there is a
continued imperfect adaptation, or both. Merton's table therefore
should surely take into account the degree of adaptation attained, the
assumption being that most people do not solve the problem. It seems

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fairly clear, however, that he means us to assume that these are general
directions of adaptation rather than the end state-railway lines rather
than stations.
If, however, these are not positions of rest there remains a balance of
adherence to respectable and deviant norms (although this may not be
true in the case of ritualism where there is no deviant element-but
ritualism does not seem very important to Merton's argument (is it
uncharitable to suggest that its existence grew out of the way the table
is constructed?)). It is precisely this balance with which Kobrin is
concerned in the article mentioned above, with which Sutherland is
concerned in working out the principle of differential association
(Sutherland and Cressey, I953), and of which one half only is found
in Miller.3
Secondly, if Merton's 'modes of adaptation' were in fact end-states
they would become goals in themselves. For if anomie is an uncom-
fortable state of imbalance, then the goal is to arrive at some situation
in which the balance is resolved. Thus innovatory, group-supported
criminality is a solution to a problem which gives satisfaction, and
releasesfrustrations.But Merton's modes are not equal in satisfactionof
frustration; conformity and ritualism seem the most satisfactory, the
others are likely to lead to community reactions, which may or may not
affect the actor's behaviour. Thus by taking the routes of innovation,
and probably retreatism, the norm conflicts are likely to remain strong
since respectabilityis constantly reinforced; this is true whether or not
the original loss of legitimacy was of the norm conflict type. This may
help to maintain the balance of adherence.
Merton's modes are, however, closely related to his general thesis and
ought not to be used out of context; i.e. they are concerned only with
the relation between cultural goals and institutionalized means. It
would seem important, however, to attempt to establish the basis of his
analysis by examining not so much whether working class goals are
concerned with material success, but whether in fact there are any
aspirationswhich are unrealistic, in terms of the working class life style,
and how strongly these are held. If recent work has cast some doubt on
the success goal, it does not invalidate the general concept of relative


Theories ought to lead to testable hypotheses, but they are often not
very easy to operationalize. No attempt has been made here to produce
a theory-it is doubtful if there is as yet enough evidence to do so-nor
indeed to do more than give some indications about the truth or other-
wise of theories already put forward. What has been suggested are a
number of concepts which are the parts of a theory which someone is

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eventually going to put together. In this final section, these are discussed
in operational terms. It is obviously not possible in a short article to do
more than indicate the lines upon which one might proceed, and this is
done briefly. There follow some testable hypotheses using the concepts
as described.

If the major constituent of anomie as suggested above is uncertainty
in predicting the reactionsof others, it ought to be measurablein terms
of expectations of others' behaviour. Studies of adolescentsare likely to
show a great deal of this kind of uncertainty merely because this is a
characteristic of adolescence. The procedure involves either putting
hypothetical cases to the persons interviewed, questioning them on
specific situations which they are likely to encounter in real life, or
observing them in interaction situations-or all three.
Srole (1956) has proposed an anomia scale which is supposed to
measure the individual feeling-state which is associated with anomie.
It comprises four main components: feelings that authority no longer
cares for the individual's needs; seeing the social order as futile and
unpredictable; feelings that everything is getting worse; and an aliena-
tion from norms making life seem meaningless. It has most recently
been used in an altered form by Mizruchi (1964, pp. 161-2) and pre-
viously by Bell (i957), but the original testing of the scale seems to
have been sketchy and it is difficult to believe that 5 agree/disagree
statements are likely to describe anything but the vaguest of feel-
Srole does not suggest that the scale measures anomie, which is a
social phenomenon, and Mizruchi emphasizesthat he is using the scale
as an 'indexto social structuralstrain and not as a means for the under-
standing of personality dynamics'. Actually Srole's scale seems to be
associated with class differences, and, if it means anything, seems to
show that there is more general discontent as one goes down the class
scale (Roberts and Rokeach, 1956; Srole, 1956(a), 1956(b); Bell, 1957;
Meir and Bell, 1959). Whether this has any relation to anomie is
unclear. It may be more closely related to the distributionof some types
of abnormal personality in the population.
The concept of anomie has, however, been exhaustivelyexamined by
the Survey Research Centre of the University of California (McClosky
and Schaar, 1965). An anomie scale of nine items was administeredin
conjunction with a large number of other scales covering cognitive
factors, emotional factors and substantive beliefs and attitudes. This
large scale and complex operation gave results which showed that
anomic feelings 'result when socialization and the learning of the norms
are impeded' (p. 39) either by lack of ability to comprehend, or by an
excess in the individual personality of anxiety, hostility and other

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similar traitswhich tend to distortthe perceptionof reality. The holding

of extreme or deviant views has the same effect.
A 'status frustration' scale when partialled out of the correlations
between anomie and various personality traits made little difference,
and this is evidence against the frustrationhypotheses.While the higher
relationship found by Srole and others between anomie and low levels
of educational achievement was confirmed, the major determinants
were personality variables and this finding may well derive from the
greater proportion of people with deviant personalities, including all
degrees of mental disturbance, in the lower levels of the population.
Anomie emerges as another way of describing a variety of dissatisfac-
tions which might arrive from all sorts of causes, social and psycho-
logical. This does not mean that frustration theories are entirely dis-
counted, but the suggestionis that they play a minor part in the genesis
of the condition.
This raises the question of whether anomie remains a useful concept.
It is so imprecise and general that it might well be better to abandon
it. In my own definition of 'legitimacy loss', for instance, it might well
be much more important to develop measures of reliance on actions
of others in relation to specific areas of behaviour than to study a
generalized discontent which might arise from many causes.
These are measured by the strength of adherence of subjects to state-
ments indicative of various norms, and the relation between this and
their behaviour. Short (Gordon et al., I963) uses what he calls 'semantic
differential images'. These are descriptive of various orientations, e.g.
someone who works for good grades at school, shares his money with
his friends, or has good connections to avoid trouble with the law. They
are rated on seven point scales embodying a variety of 'good-bad'
polarities. The main areas covered are: dominant goal activity, leisure
activity, and ethical orientation, but the method could obviously be
used very widely. The evaluation scales could be adapted to show
strength of attachment to particular statements. In these terms norm
weakness implies general lack of strength of attachment, norm conflict
reasonably strong attachments to conflicting statements, although both
really need corroborationin behaviour.
It seems clear from recent work that there are reasonablywell defined
strata within the English working class (Kuper, 1953; Mitchell, et al.,
1954; Stacey, 96o0; Goldthorpe and Lockwood, i963; Klein, I964).
The nature of the measurements, other than informed observation,
which could distinguish these strata is less clear. The usual occupational/
educational indices no doubt roughly define the differences, but there
is no necessary relation between husband's job and cultural differences

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in child rearing, and it may be impossibleto distinguishbetween a large
group all of whom left school at fifteen. There is an area here upon
which work needs to be done. Luckily,it is not always necessaryto define
strata to carry out studies in the present context, but it is certainly
difficult to say what is meant by a deviation from the norm if we do not
know what the norms are!


We have referredabove to the importance of both of these concepts,

and have noted the distinction between the immediate and the wider
referent area. This is essential because of the danger that the wider
referentarea may contain referentswhich do not have very much effect
upon behaviour though they may be expressedin answersto questions.
The actual referent may be a variety of things: an individual, a group,
a status level, a norm, a goal, a value, even a fantasy of the way other
people behave-or a combination of these. The reality of the con-
sequent deprivation need have no relationship to the validity of the
The practical problems here are first of all in establishing the
referent;in discoveringwhere it resides (we tend to assume a great deal
about what 'middle class' or 'respectable' norms are), in establishing
the fact of deprivation, and in estimating its intensity. The procedures
of Short's referredto above are applicable here also-indeed, study of
norms in the terms outlined is a special case of studies of referents
and relative deprivation. The procedures used in The AmericanSoldier
(Stouffer, et al., 1949) in validating attitude questionnaires and hold-
ing responses constant to compare them with others has the advantage
over Short of assuring reliability of scales. The difficulty in all these
approaches,however, is in establishingthe real validity of statementsor
questions, i.e. what they mean in relation to the life style and reference
points of the individual replying. This one can only do, usually, by
comparing replies, but there is much scope forjoining observationaland
deep interview techniqueswith the answersto questionnairesto establish
the validity and nature of frames of reference.
This is an exceedingly difficult concept to measure. In this context,
however, it is the departure from role expectations which counts, and
a group or several individual opinions that a person is both unreliable
and bizarre, or at least extremely strangein his actions, is enough for an
identification of borderline mental illness. The identification of less
pathological behaviour deviations can only be made by hindsight by
studying the behaviour concerned. There is so much doubt, however,
about identification of psychopaths that only extreme cases are clearly

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We now come to the hypotheses. They are not a programme of

research;such a programmemight take years, and engage unobtainably
large resources. They merely attempt to suggest some operationally
testable lines of advance as alternatives to the present rather general
hypotheseswhich now hold the field, on the assumptionthat the 'middle
range' is a large area, and the lower quartile is a more appropriate
place to start from.
HypothesisI: Legitimacy loss is more frequentlyfound and is more acute
in the ordinary than the respectable working class strata and highest
in the rough stratum.
The indications we have are that this is true.

Hypothesis 2: Some legitimacy loss is due to norm weakness and some to

norm conflict.
This is a test of the concepts to see if they are true.

Hypothesis3: Norm weaknessis highest in the lowest of the three working

class strata, norm conflict is highest in the middle stratum.
The assumption here is that the 'rough' stratum is more disorganized
and suffers more from withdrawal and the effects of individual
abnormality than the 'ordinary'stratum, which is fully exposed to the
pressuresof respectability.
Hypothesis4: The immediate referent area is more likely to affect
behaviour than the wider referent area.
This seems very likely and we have evidence for it.

Hypothesis5: Relative deprivation is strongest when measured in terms

of the immediate referent area, and weaker when measured in terms
of the wider referent area.
This also seems very likely.

Hypothesis6: Relative deprivation is stronger in relation to material

success goals than in relation to status maintenance.
This is derived from Merton and Short.

7: Persistentcrime is significantlymore often related to norm

weakness than norm conflict.
8: Transient crime (i.e. a pattern of one only or a few offences
and then no more), and adolescentpeak crime are significantlymore
often related to norm conflict than norm weakness.

Hypothesisg: In the referent areas designated by Miller as 'focal concerns'

norm conflict is weaker than in relation to material success goals.
This derives from Miller and Merton.

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Hypothesisro: The incidence of individual and family withdrawal and

abnormality is highest in the 'rough' stratum and is significantly
related to a high incidence and persistent criminality and weak
This is related to Sprott, Marsh and Emerson's unpublished study of
lower class cultures
I do not pretend that these are exhaustive, nor do I pretend that
these concepts are easy to measure reliably and to handle, but they do
offer some opportunity of starting out with a series of detailed points to
test, and the eventual possibilityof combining them into a theory which
will bring us nearer to some real knowledge of the causes of deviation.

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1A totally indefensible use is that by stress on the interactive aspects of adapta-
Lander (I954) in which he identifies a tion and the effect upon the availability
factor with anomie because it has high of legitimate and illegitimate oppor-
loadings on delinquency, high percentage tunities as a result of the continuing re-
of non-whites, and low owner occupation. lationship of ego (the person making the
2 Not the reference group, there may
adaptation) and alter (those with whom
well be significant individuals, or self- he is interacting). Merton's analysis is
images. too static, the parts of his system too
3 In a recent article Cohen (1965) lays discrete.

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