Anomie-Strain Theory

Authored by: Timothy Brezina

The Routledge Handbook of Deviant Behavior

Print publication date:  June  2011
Online publication date:  April  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415482745
eBook ISBN: 9780203880548
Adobe ISBN: 9781134015580


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The anomie tradition in criminology (also referred to as strain theory) can be traced to the early pioneering work of the French sociologist Emile Durkheim. Similar to Freud’s notion of the “id,” Durkheim assumed that individuals possessed a primal self that, in the absence of society, expressed itself through selfish wants and desires. Furthermore, Durkheim argued that the wants and desires of the primal self are more or less insatiable; in other words, the primal self is characterized by a relentless appetite “for more.” In the context of modern society, this condition—when not adequately restrained—tends to express itself in an unquenchable thirst for pleasure or success, “overweening ambition,” a “longing for infinity,” and “perpetual dissatisfaction.”

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