Anomie is defined as lack of normal societal or ethical standards. It is a social condition whereby there is disappearance or disintegration of the values and norms that were previously shared among the members of the society. The concept also referred to as “normlessness,” was coined by the great sociologist, Emile Durkheim. He documented the theory in 1893, in his book, The Division of Labor in Society where he indicated that the loss of rules governing individuals’ interaction was distorted and people could not determine how to socialize or handle each other in a ‘normal’ way. Therefore, he concluded that anomie was as a result of a system which has been broken down. It is important to note that this aspect produces unethical behavior that is outrageous in that it cannot be related to the societal norms.
Durkheim claimed that anomie is a transition phase whereby the norms and values which are common during a particular period are no longer valid, and the new ones have not yet been generated. The theory is based on the idea that lack of clarity and rules in a society results in the psychological status of despair, deprived purpose, frustration, and worthlessness. Consequently, the broken system leads to deviant behavior among the community members. In criminology, anomie refers to the idea that people choose to engage in criminal activity because they believe that no reason would prevent them from doing so. They feel worthless and alienated. Also, such individuals have the mentality that their efforts to attempt and achieve something in life would not bear fruits. Thus, with a lack of anticipated option, the person ends up in criminal activities and gang formation. Vital examples of such people are in Houston, a city in the United States of America.
According to the Houston Chronicle, two dangerous neighborhoods exist in Houston. These include Sunnyside, south of Downtown Houston and Houston’s Third Ward. Communities in these two places suffer from anomie since they are regions with a considerably high rate of crime. Different types of criminal cases are found in these areas whereby no law governs them, even the societal norms and values. This is because people feel disconnected from their society. The communities may also think that their role and identity is no longer recognized. As a result, anomie promotes a lack of purpose. Such situations encourage crime and deviance. It is apparent that gangs control Houston’s Third Ward. Thus, a social disorder is eminent among the people living in the two most dangerous zones in Houston. The ties which would have promoted a functional society by binding members together have broken down.
Furthermore, according to Robert Merton, the founder of the sociology of deviance, lack of the necessary legitimate and legal means to attain culturally valued goals makes people develop deviant behavior. Therefore, they end up violating the laws and norms. For example, the lack of unemployment and jobs in Houston has led to many youths to engage in criminal activities such as drug trafficking and theft. Houston is a popular city in Texas, but it lacks job opportunities, which would have supported the community members. Before anyone enters Houston, they need to mark the gang territories. This is because in some areas, crime scenes are considered ‘normal’ and no one can intervene and change the peoples’ perspective. The society has nurtured immorality and the lack of hope in its future, which has turned the people into victims of anomie.
Garfield, E. (1987). The Anomie-Deviant Behavior Connection-The Theories of Durkheim, Merton, and Srole. Current Contents, (39), 3-12.