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The theory of Anomie and its relevance to the Deviance and Social control issues

A majority of sociologists use the word deviance to refer to violations of laws or expectations. It may be understood. What's deviant is characterized by various cultures. Howard S. Becker is a sociologist, who interprets difference not as an act itself, but as the reaction to the act (Becker, 1964). There are instances where an individual may be labeled deviant without necessarily doing anything wrong, for example, an individual may be falsely discredited or accused because of race, health, or a birth defect. Employing the symbolic interactionist view which bases deviance to the violation or adherence to norms, this paper acknowledges that various human groups, for example, societies need norms. Norms make human social life possible by making behavior predictable. It can be acknowledged that all human groups have a system of social control and this encompasses both the formal and the informal methods of enforcing norms. The individuals who violate these norms are, thus, labeled deviant. This particular paper will argue that the theory of Anomie by Emile Durkheim is relevant in understanding the deviance and social control issues in this age of mass murders in the not so usual places.
Emile Durkheim
Emile Durkheim was a French philosopher, social psychologist, and sociologist who together with Karl Marx and Marx Weber established Sociology as an academic discipline. It can be acknowledged that a majority of his works focused on advancing societies how to maintain coherence, as well as, integrity in modernity. According to Emile Durkheim, the era of modernity is characterized by the coming in of new intuitions into the society, as well as, the act of no longer assuming the religious and the traditional social ties. Durkheim is mainly for his work on social pathologies and crime (Merton, 1938). It can be established that Durkheim identified several pathologies that usually lead to the disintegration of society. The 2 most common pathologies identified by Emile Durkheim include the forced division of labor and anomie. The other lesser pathologies include suicide and the lack of coordination. The pathology referred to as anomie which is at the center of this discussion was described by Durkheim as a state in which the amount of interaction between groups is significantly reduced because of high population growth rate and this results in the breakdown of the understanding of norms and values.
The theory of Anomie
The state of anomie is a situation where the society fails to provide enough guidance to the individuals. It can also be referred to as the breakdown of the social bonds that exist between individuals in society, for example, a scenario that results in to the rejection of any self-regulatory values, as well as, the social identity. It can be acknowledged that the term anomie was popularized by Emile Durkheim in one of his books referred to as ‘Suicide’ which was published in the year 1897. It is important to note that from a sociological standpoint, it is inappropriate to use the term normlessness, for example, Anomie is the state of normlessness, and instead, Durkheim insists that the terms derangement or insatiable will be used instead.
Social Disorder
It can be acknowledged that Emile Durkheim borrowed the term anomie from another French philosopher who is was referred to as Jean Guyau, hence, using it in his book ‘Suicide’. Emile’s book outlined the social causes of murder and suicide. Suicide and murder in Emile’s book are characterized by the rapid change of the values and standards of societies. According to the Emile Durkheim, the people who commit suicide or murder usually feel purposelessness or alienated. In his book, Emile Durkheim believed that the state of anomie is common when the societies that have undergone significant changes in their economic fortunes for better or for worse (Danigelis & Pope, 1979). It is important to note that Emile’s views were quite different from the views of the other theories of suicide which maintained that suicide occurred due to the negative events that have taken place in a person’s life, for example, depression.
According to Durkheim’s theory of anomie, traditions, as well as, religions provided a basis for shared values and norms that anomie suffering individual’s lack. Additionally, the industrial revolution resulted in individuals pursuing egoistic ends rather than the good of the entire community. It is important to acknowledge that other scholars also adopted Emile’s view of anomie, for example, Robert Merton who by borrowing it developed the strain theory. According to Robert, the strain theory described the state of derangement caused by the discrepancy between the social goals and the ways through which these goals can be attained. In simple terms, an individual suffering from anomie strives to attain the goals set by society but will not be able to meet these goals because of the limitations that exist in society and as a result of this the individual might portray deviant behavior.
Suicide and Mass Murders
It is true to state that the theory of the father of sociology Emile Durkheim give a better understanding of how various factors, such as cultural factors contribute to mental illness in individuals. Emile noted that suicide and murder were more common in individualistic societies that are characterized by a much less social integration when compared to societies that have stronger social integration referred to as collectivistic societies. An individual who is socially isolated is more likely to become engage in deviant behavior than one that is not. It can be acknowledged that mass murderers are usually socially isolated individuals that build up aggression over time towards the society and as a result of this feel disconnected from it.
According to Emile Durkheim, individuals in a society may find themselves in a state of anomie when the rules that guide them, as well as, behavior towards one another are broken down. It is important to note that Emile’s view of anomie is in line with the social control theory which states that mass murders especially mass shootings occur when the bonds between the perpetrators and the society weaken. In other terms, the perception of the perpetrator becomes one of being socially marginalized. Low degrees of social integration within the individualistic societies increases the risk of social isolation in individuals and this may solidify the perceptions a mass murderer has of being a loner in this world and the rest of people are enemies. This closely resembles the case of school shooters who in most cases have low social skills which are as a result of poor social integration. Those who experience the state of anomie are very vulnerable and this is because they are usually in a lot of emotional chaos and may end up using violence to vent out the anger they have towards the society which according to them, has betrayed and secluded them.
Karen Sternheimer a professor insists that being attracted to violence does not necessarily mean that an individual will become violent. Karen’s research points to the fact that individuals become violent as a result of what they learn through the social contexts and through their personal experiences (Sternheimer, 2003). Everybody in society has a set of life experiences that affect their levels of aggression. Therefore, the more an individual’s life experiences are filled with experiences of them being secluded, discriminated against, and isolated, the more it elicits the aggressive nature within them. It is true to state that, psychiatric conditions are usually pointed out as the main causes of mass killings, however, it is important to note that mental illness does not always result in the mass killings that take place across the globe. It is true that social patterns and factors lead to the occurrence of mass murders.
The state of anomie can be described to as the state of derangement or insatiable will within a society. A French sociologist referred to as Emile Durkheim borrowed the term from an early philosopher referred to as Jean Guyau and used it in his book referred to as ‘Suicide’ which was published in the year 1897. The theory of anomie by Emile Durkheim can be used to investigate the case of mass killings that have and is still continuing to take place in the world.

Becker, H. S. (1964). Personal change in adult life. Sociometry, 40-53.
Danigelis, N., & Pope, W. (1979). Durkheim's Theory of Suicide as Applied to the Family: A Empirical Test. Social Forces, 1081-1106.
Merton, R. K. (1938). Social structure and anomie. American sociological review, 3(5), 672-682.
Sternheimer, K. (2003). It's not the media: The truth about pop culture's influence on children. Basic Books.

September 21, 2021

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