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Anomie is a concept identified by Durkheim and later developed by Merton.

For Durkheim, anomie is a state of normlessness: the lack of social cohesion and solidarity that often accompanies rapid social change. Durkheim recognised that pre-modern societies had mechanical solidarity (close-knit communities based around working together) which meant that establishing shared norms and values and a collective conscience was relatively simple compared to doing so within the complexity of modern industrial society in which individuals were more isolated. Anomie was one cause of deviance: if people were not properly socialised into the shared norms and values of society, or if a society was changing so much that it was unclear what the shared norms and values were, then deviance (and hence crime) was much more likely.

Merton took this idea further by suggesting that anomie was caused by a strain between the consensus view of what people should aim for in life and the consensus (or accepted) view of how you should go about achieving it. This was the basis of his strain theory.

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