Sociology Daily Answer Writing (16-12-2022)


  1. Discuss Merton’s views on personal adaptations to anomie. How can you use Merton’s model to understand contemporary protests and agitations?  20
  2. What is the Parsonian view on social equilibrium?     10

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Model Solutions

Q1. Discuss Merton’s views on personal adaptations to anomie. How can you use Merton’s model to understand contemporary protests and agitations? 20

Model Structure

  • The basic idea of Robert K. Merton’s anomie theory is that most people strive to achieve culturally recognized goals. A state of anomie develops when access to these goals is blocked to entire groups of people or individuals. The result is a deviant behaviour characterized by rebellion, retreat, ritualism, innovation, and/or conformity.

Main Body

  • Strain Theory argues that crime occurs when there aren’t enough legitimate opportunities for people to achieve the normal success goals of a society.

  • In such a situation there is a ‘strain’ between the goals and the means to achieve those goals, and some people turn to crime in order to achieve success.

  • Strain Theory was first developed by Robert Merton in the 1940s to explain the rising crime rates experienced in the USA at that time.

  • Strain theory has become popular with Contemporary sociologists.

  • Merton argued that the cultural system of the USA was built on the ‘American Dream’ – a set of meritocratic principles which assured the American public that equality of opportunity was available to all, regardless of class, gender or ethnicity.

  • The ‘American Dream’ encouraged individuals to pursue a goal of success which was largely measured in terms of the acquisition of wealth and material possessions.

  • People were expected to pursue this goal through legitimate means such as education and work.

  • The dominant cultural message was if you are ambitious, talented and work hard, then income and wealth should be your rewards.

  • However, Merton pointed out that these goals were not attainable by all, that the structural organization of the USA mean that the means to get on were not fairly distributed and it was difficult, if not impossible for some to compete an achieve financial success.

  • Merton developed the concept of ‘anomie’ to describe this imbalance between cultural goals and institutionalized means. He argued that such an imbalanced society produces anomie – there is a strain or tension between the goals and means which produce unsatisfied aspirations.

  • Merton argued that when individuals are faced with a gap between their goals (usually finances/money related) and their current status, strain occurs. When faced with strain, people have five ways to adapt:

    • Conformity: pursuing cultural goals through socially approved means.
    • Innovation: using socially unapproved or unconventional means to obtain culturally approved goals. Example: dealing drugs or stealing to achieve financial security.
    • Ritualism: using the same socially approved means to achieve less elusive goals (more modest and humble).
    • Retreatism: to reject both the cultural goals and the means to obtain it, then find a way to escape it.
    • Rebellion: to reject the cultural goals and means, then work to replace them.
  • Application:

    • Protests for postponing the NEET exam went online. Trendings and twitter hashtags were used to popularize the cause. This shows ‘innovation’ of student protests
    • North-eastern militancy is an example of protest and protestors becoming retreatist in nature. They take up the path of terrorism and withdraw from main-stream society
    • Recent protests against CAA were rebellious in nature which eventually turned to riots
    • Farmer protests in various parts of the country are following ‘conformity’ because they use usual methods like Dharna, Rail Roko etc.

Q2. What is the Parsonian view on social equilibrium? 10

Model Structure

  • Define Social Equilibrium or Give brief info about Parson

Main Body

  • Social system - No social system in a perfect equilibrium, although certain degree of equilibrium is essential for survival of societies
    • This process is called as "moving equilibrium"
  • AGIL schema
  • Socialisation and social control -- key to maintaining social equilibrium.
    • Social control -
      Via formal (Law, police) and informal agencies
  • Socialisation -
    Both by primary (Family) and secondary agencies (School, friends, society)
  • Economic system - globalisation when it's introduced.
    • Latency - change in the education system needed
    • Integration - Rising individual values and family attitude changes
    • Goal attainment - Income distribution must occur else protectionism will be on rise.
  • Like this, if any changes in other systems, all these systems must cope up, thus dynamic equilibrium occurs.

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