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Anomie Theory

Abstract and Keywords

Originating in the tradition of classical sociology (Durkheim, Merton), anomie theory posits how broad social conditions influence deviant behavior and crime. The French sociologist Émile Durkheim was the first to discuss the concept of anomie as an analytical tool in his 1890s seminal works of sociological theory and method. In these works, anomie, which refers to a widespread lack of commitment to shared values, standards, and rules needed to regulate the behaviors and aspirations of individuals, is an intermediate condition by which social (dis)organization impacts individual distress and deviant behavior. An observant of the massive social changes of 19th-century Europe, Durkheim argued that anomie resulted from rapid social change and the weakening of traditional institutions, in particular the reduced authority of such institutions in the economic sphere, as well as changes in the principles underlying social inequality. A few decades later, the American sociologist Robert Merton re-formulated anomie theory, arguing how a particular malintegration of the culture-structure constitution of modern society produces high rates of crime. Echoing selected themes in Durkheim’s work, and discussing the United States as a prime example, Merton argued how a shared overemphasis on monetary success goals undermines individual commitment to social rules, and generates a particularly acute strain on individuals in disadvantaged social positions. Thus having implications for research on crime rate differences between societies as well as between individuals and groups within the society, anomie theory has inspired a broad range of both macro- and micro-level applications and extensions. On the one hand, the theory has shaped studies of crime rates across large social units, such as countries and metropolitan areas. Such research, while often limited in terms of the types of crime that can reliably be compared across large social units, has linked crime with economic inequality, materialistic values, the institutional dominance of market-driven processes and values, and rapid social change. An important development in this tradition is the advent of multilevel research that links societal factors with individual normlessness, strain, and criminal behavior. On the other hand, micro-level implications of anomie theory, often referred to as classic strain theory, have shaped studies of individual and group differences in criminal behavior within societies. This type of work often studies youths, at times bringing in notions of gangs, subculture, and differential opportunities, focusing on the criminogenic effects of strain stemming from opportunity blockage and relative deprivation. Yet the work rarely examines individual normlessness as an intermediate process linking social structure and delinquency. Finally, anomie theory has been extended and applied to research on business/corporate and white-collar crime. While more research is needed in this area, the extant work suggests how anomie theory provides a particularly powerful explanation of national-level differences in business/corporate crime (e.g., bribery). The article concludes by noting that an increased emphasis on multilevel research may lead to an integration of the macro-level and micro-level extensions and applications of anomie theory in the future.

Keywords: anomie, normlessness, institutional anomie, classic strain, materialism, cultural disjuncture, social disorganization, inequality, opportunity, macro–micro link


Originating in the classical tradition of sociology (Durkheim, 1897/1951, 1893/1984; Merton, 1968), anomie theory addresses the intermediate conditions linking social (dis)organization with individual distress and deviant behavior. The theory thus cuts across the levels of social analysis, having implications for both macro- and micro-level crime research (Baumer, 2007; Messner, 1988). On the one hand, anomie theory argues how certain, disruptive features of industrialized society can generate widespread normlessness; that is, they undermine the commitment of many individuals to the shared values that are needed to regulate their behaviors and aspirations. These macro-level propositions have implications for research on crime rate differences between large social units, such as countries or states. On the other hand, anomie theory has micro-level implications; it implies how social conditions conducive to anomie and crime may differ between individuals and local communities. Since this multidimensionality is only vaguely elaborated in the classic works of Durkheim and Merton, it has given rise to much explication as well as debate (e.g., Baumer, 2007; Bernard, 1987; Featherstone & Deflem, 2003; Messner, 1988; Passas & Agnew, 1997). Nevertheless, the distinct theoretical threads have impacted a broad range of criminological research.

The current article outlines the major statements of anomie theory and reviews a broad selection of prominent extensions and applications of the theory in contemporary criminology. After outlining classic anomie theory in the writings of Emile Durkheim and Robert Merton, the text discusses the contemporary work. First it reviews how anomie theory has impacted macro-level research on societal crime rates and then how the theory has shaped micro-level research on individual and community differences in crime. The final section addresses how anomie theory has impacted research on business/corporate and white-collar crime.

Émile Durkheim: The Foundations of Anomie Theory

The French sociologist Émile Durkheim introduces anomie as a sociological concept in his first major work, The Division of Labor in Society, and then extends it in his paradigmatic study Suicide. In The Division, which explores how the base of social solidarity changes when societies become more complex, Durkheim (1893/1984) refers to anomie as social situations arising when rapid social change has temporarily undermined the power of shared conduct rules (social norms, in contemporary terms) to regulate the cooperation of individuals. “Equilibrium” between different parts of the social system, Durkheim writes, requires “predetermined rules of conduct” entailing “rights and duties” that are “obligatory” and applicable in “most common circumstances” (p. 301). No formal power can superimpose the authority of such rules; they acquire moral authority only from habits emerging in repeated social interaction (p. 302). Therefore, rapid change may weaken shared conduct rules, undermining cooperation and creating social conflict. At such moments, the society, or some parts of it, can be said to be in a state of anomie.

In Suicide Durkheim (1897/1951) extends the anomie concept to discuss how social conditions may generate widespread discontent, unhappiness, and deviant behavior. Since human aspirations lack biological limits, social life must produce commitment to rules that restrain the aspirations individuals. “A regulative force must play the same role for moral needs which the organism plays for physical needs,” Durkheim writes, and “society alone can play this moderating role” (p. 248). When social life is stable it produces shared standards that make individuals in different social positions believe that they are getting what they should, and tell them what they can legitimately aspire to (pp. 250–251). Anomie in this regard is when social life fails to regulate the aspirations of many individuals, whose goals thus become ill-defined and unattainable, creating discontent that increases suicide and deviance (p. 293).

Durkheim’s work contains major suggestions about the social conditions that may lead to anomie. First of all, rapid social change causes anomie. Since social rules emerge only in repeated social interaction, it takes time for them to become instutionalized—that is, to be experienced by individuals as obligatory. Therefore, when social reality changes rapidly, existing rules may become irrelevant while new rules have not yet emerged. Such situations often arise in modern society when economic fluctuations disrupt the connection between social reality and social rules. Thus, on the one hand, a recession may cast many individuals into worse conditions than they have internalized as just, but, on the other hand, periods of rapid growth may render the existing standards irrelevant, while “a new scale cannot be immediately improvised” (Durkheim, 1897/1951, p. 253). Periods of rapid deprivation and sudden prosperity can both temporarily weaken the social regulation of material goals, producing widespread disappointment (and a higher suicide rate).

Furthermore, an observant of the massive social changes of 19th-century Europe, Durkheim (1897/1951) sees the weakening of traditional institutions, such as religion and marriage, providing fertile grounds for anomie, since such institutions regulate the needs and desires of individuals. For example, marriage regulates the desires of individuals for love and sex. In a society where divorce is rarely an option, marriage places a social restraint on the desire for love and sex; it closes the horizon, limiting what individuals want and think feasible. But, a high divorce rate presents married people with new possibilities—new desires. That higher divorce rates are associated with higher suicide rates illustrates, for Durkheim, how widespread divorce weakens the moral authority of marriage (p. 271). When social constraint on desire weakens, discontent increases. Without social regulation of desire, people are discontent and unhappy.

But while Durkheim initially emphasizes anomie as a temporary abnormality, caused by sudden social change, in Suicide he sees the tendency for modern economic activity to become disembedded from other institutions as a stable source of anomie (Bernburg, 2002). The traditional institutions increasingly lose control of economic practices, giving rise to unrestrained material aspirations. For Durkheim (1897/1951, p. 257), modern economic activity thus not only encourages materialistic ambition, but represents it “as a mark of moral distinction.” This is why, when left to their own regulatory devices, “trade and industry” are in a “chronic state of anomie” (shown by high rates of suicide in those spheres).

Finally, Durkheim suggests a link between social inequality and anomie. Durkheim (1893/1984, pp. 310–322) argues that when inequality is shaped by social privilege people may perceive their social positions as illegitimate, or “forced” upon them. Durkheim (1897/1951) only briefly mentions anomie in the context of this theme (pp. 250–251), yet this link is implied by his notion that social rules acquire moral authority only if individuals believe that they are just (Chamlin & Cochran, 2005; Messner, 1982, 1989). Since in modern society equal opportunity (or, in Durkheim’s terms, inequality based on “natural inequalities”) is perceived as the just rule for the allocation of social status (Durkheim, 1893/1984, p. 313), social practices creating unfair advantage may undermine the legitimacy of social rules that thus lose moral authority over individuals’ goals and conduct.

Merton’s Theory of Anomie and Crime

As Durkheim’s work on anomie theory did not focus on crime in particular, it has impacted contemporary criminology to a great extent through the work of the American sociologist Robert K. Merton. Employing a style of middle-range theorizing, Merton (1938, 1968) re-formulates anomie theory to argue how particular features of modern societies may cause high crime rates, as well as why different social groups exhibit different rates of criminal behavior. Merton’s formulation extends the two themes in Durkheim’s work that both stressed the durable sources of anomie in modernity, namely, (1) materialism and (2) social inequality.

Grounded in the theoretical meta-framework of structural functionalism, Merton distinguishes between the society’s cultural structure and its social structure (1968, pp. 186–190). The cultural structure comprises the society’s structure of shared values, including its (1) cultural goals, that is, the shared values regulating the goals (aspirations) of individuals, and (2) institutional means, that is, the “value-laden sentiments” (or norms) regulating the means that should be used to strive for the valued goals (p. 187). A society’s social structure, by contrast, refers to the organization of social relationships and statuses (p. 216). Using this distinction, Merton posits a twofold argument. First, a particular malintegration within a culture structure may cause a widespread lack of support to cultural values, causing high rates of crime and deviance. In a well-integrated culture social mechanisms exist that reward individuals both for striving for the cultural goals and for using the institutional means to do so. But, such integration may fail, and in modern society it may fail in a particular way (pp. 187–189):

There may develop a very heavy . . . stress upon the values of particular goals involving comparatively little concern with the institutionally prescribed means of striving toward these goals. . . . The culture may be such as to lead individuals to center their emotional convictions upon the complex of culturally acclaimed ends, with far less emotional support for pre-scribed methods of reaching out for these ends. . . . [In such contexts] the technically most effective procedure, whether culturally legitimate or not, becomes typically preferred to institutionally prescribed conduct . . . [Then] there develops what Durkheim called “anomie” (or normlessness).

Merton uses the United States as the prime example of such cultural malintegration. In this society individuals receive more rewards for achieving economic success than for playing by the rules. This disjuncture creates a pressure on people to use the most efficient means that they have to strive for the valued goals. For Merton, the American Dream ideal illustrates this cultural “ethos”—i.e., a moral obligation—of striving for monetary success regardless of one’s social position. Under this cultural pressure individuals may be left normless, which means that they lose the commitment to the institutional means, with only self-interest and fear of punishment left to control their behavior.

However, the second part of Merton’s theory argues, the cultural pressure toward anomie is uneven across the social structure. It is most acute in places where the culture makes the most “incompatible demands” (p. 200), that is, in the lower social strata. “Anomie[,] conceived as breakdown in the cultural structure” Merton writes, “occur[s] particularly when there is an acute disjunction between the cultural norms and goals and the socially structured capacities of members of the group to act in accord with them” (p. 216). Simply put, all members of the society are expected, even obligated, to strive for economic success, because, in principle, they all have the opportunity. But social inequality entails a conflict between the values and the reality. Some groups have limited opportunity to strive for success using the institutional means. For example, economic or racial backgrounds may prevent many from attaining a college degree. Thus, echoing Durkheim’s (cryptic) linking of social inequality and anomie, modern inequality “strains the cultural values [. . . by acting] as a barrier . . . to the acting out of cultural mandates” (pp. 216–217). As a result, social rules lose their emotional power, or moral authority, over individual behavior.

Merton posits that most individuals will remain committed to the cultural goals and the institutional means, even if their effort is often unsuccessful. Still, many people may adapt to the cultural pressure by losing some of their value commitments (pp. 193–211). Thus, in the case of “innovation,” many individuals remain committed to the shared economic goals but lose their commitment to the institutional means, allowing them (i.e., emotionally speaking) to engage in crime. Such innovation may occur throughout a social structure dominated by the culture-of-success, but it should occur most frequently where access to the institutional means is most restricted. Alternatively, Merton suggests, the culture–structure disjuncture may result in “retreatism,” whereby individuals lose their commitment to both the cultural goals and the institutional means, becoming “psychotics, autists, pariahs, outcasts, vagrants . . . and drug-addicts” (p. 207).

Although Merton depicts the United States to illustrate a success-oriented culture where disadvantaged groups experience the most acute strain toward anomie, his general concepts comprise a theory that scholars see as applicable across modern societies. Offering no comparative data on the uniqueness of the United States (see Cao, 2004), Merton (1968, p. 229) leaves it for research to examine where, if, and how the combination of the cultural values and the structural conditions discussed by his theory impact crime and deviance.

Merton’s Multidimensional Theory of Anomie, Strain, and Crime

Although Merton (1938) initially posited his theory in a parsimonious manner, he later discussed how the theory encompasses various processes linking social (dis)organization and crime (Merton, 1968, pp. 215–260). In these writings, anomie (i.e., widespread normlessness) is not the only intermediate process by which the culture-of-success impacts crime and deviance. The strain of being unable to strive for valued goals not only undermines the commitment of individuals to the institutional means but “may involve a considerable degree of frustration” and “non-rational behavior” (p. 232). The criminogenic effects of lofty material goals are thus not confined to profit-motivated crime. Merton’s theory of structural strain thus encompasses the ways in which social disadvantage often gives rise to the formation of violent or otherwise “non-rational . . . delinquency groups” (p. 233). In short, in addition to anomie, the theory encompasses—at least in principle—major psychological processes (frustration, relative deprivation) and small-groups (subculture) dynamics conducive to crime and deviance.

Furthermore, Merton assumes that cultural strain toward anomie may impact crime through both individual-level responses and group-level processes (pp. 233–234). On the one hand, vulnerable individuals may respond to the culture-of-success with normlessness, frustration, and deviant behavior (as shaped by their structural location as well as socialization into the normative structure). On the other hand, deviant responses of vulnerable individuals impact “other individuals with whom they are inter-related in the system” (p. 234). For example, if a given deviant innovation becomes common and “successful” in achieving valued goals (say, if many individuals begin to profit from selling illegal drugs), this in turn may undermine “the legitimacy of the institutional norms for others in the system” (p. 234). Thus, anomie causes crime not only through individual responses but through the spreading of anomie, even to the less vulnerable in the social system.

In short, for Merton, the culture-of-success not only creates anomie but generates various other criminogenic social and psychological conditions. All these conditions, in turn, may impact crime through both micro- and macro-level processes.

This vaguely elaborated multidimensionality has prompted scholars to delineate distinct theoretical threads in Merton’s work. Messner (1988) has argued that Merton’s writings comprise two distinct theories: (1) a macro-level theory of social organization, positing how cultural malintegration leads to widespread normlessness (i.e., anomie), increasing the overall crime rate in the society; and (2) a micro-level theory of structural strain positing how a culture-of-success generates strain on disadvantaged members of the society, who thus are more likely than others to lose commitment to social norms and to develop psychological motives (relative deprivation, frustration) for crime and delinquency. Alternatively, inspired by the advent of multilevel-design research, Baumer (2007) has framed Merton’s work as a multilevel theory, whereby the value commitments, structural positions, and behavior of individuals are nested within larger structures of shared values and unequal opportunities.

Macro-Level Extensions and Applications of Anomie Theory

Although Durkheim and Merton provided major propositions about the broad social features causing anomie and crime, macro-level work on anomie theory was still rare in the 1980s when it was described as “a road not taken” in criminology (Messner, 1988). By that time anomie theory had sparked more research on the criminogenic effects of structural strain on individuals and communities (see the special section on “Micro-Level Extensions and Applications of Anomie Theory”). However, during the 1980s through 2010s, anomie theory has guided a large volume of research of crime rate differences between large social units, such as countries, states, counties, or cities. This section reviews this work. It will show that while comprehensive tests of anomie theory have been rare, anomie theory has guided work on the impact of broad societal features, particularly of economic inequality, shared values, and social change, on societal crime rates. Moreover, one major macro-level extension of anomie theory (Messner & Rosenfeld, 2007) has prompted scholars to study how crime rates reflect the dominance of the economy in the society’s institutional structure.

Economic Inequality

Macro-level criminological work often relies on notions from anomie theory to explain the frequently observed, positive association between the society’s level of economic inequality and its crime rate (Pridemore & Trent, 2010). Aside from standard methodological concerns about sampling and selection of control variables (Nivette, 2011; Pare & Felson, 2014), from the standpoint of anomie theory, two major challenges are of central importance to this type of research: (1) measurement of the intermediate processes linking economic inequality with crime, and (2) specification of the contingencies in the effect of economic inequality on crime.

Research on the effect of economic inequality on social crime rates (usually homicide rates) often assumes that economic inequality increases crime through structural strain, that is, by generating resentment and frustration (relative deprivation) among disadvantaged members of the society (Blau & Blau, 1982; Kawachi, Kennedy, & Wilkinson, 1999; Krahn, Hartnagel, & Gartrett, 1986; Phillips, 1997; Stolzenberg, Eitle, & D’Alessio, 2006). But, while showing that economic inequality is often associated with higher crime rates, studies rarely measure such intermediate process. Moreover, assuming that structural strain is the key intermediate process in the inequality-crime link entails a risk of reductionism (Chamlin & Cochran, 2005; Messner, 1988; Pridemore & Trent, 2010). As Merton argued, the culture–structure disjunction may impact crime through both micro- and macro-level processes: the responses of individuals to structural strain may mediate a part of the inequality-crime effect, while the diffusion of anomie may explain another part of the effect. As research rarely studies such intermediate processes, little is known about them. But, Chamlin and Cochran’s (2006) study of homicide rates in 33 countries provides a rare exception. They used multinational survey data to examine whether perceived legitimacy of economic stratification mediated the effect of economic inequality on country homicide. But, the study found, perceived legitimacy did not mediate the effect. Although this study does not examine anomie, or normlessness, it illustrates how aggregate survey data can be used to study intermediate processes.

Anomie theory argues that economic inequality impacts crime in combination with other, given features of social organization (Baumer, 2007; Schaible & Altheimer, 2016). Specifically, economic inequality should have a pronounced effect on society crime rates insofar as (1) economic inequality is constituted by unequal access to legitimate opportunity, or privilege (as opposed to merit, or “natural inequalities”); and (2) the culture strongly values the universal pursuit of economic goals while undervaluing the institutional means to strive for economic goals. Research rarely studies such complex interaction patterns. But, partial tests have been conducted.

One approach has been to argue that high economic inequality generates the most strain, frustration, and normlessness in modern, democratic societies. Such cultures presumably place much value on equal opportunity and economic goals. Cross-national homicide research has provided support for this hypothesis. Krahn et al. (1986) found higher democratization levels to enhance the association between economic inequality and country homicide. Bjerregaard and Cochran (2008) found that economic inequality had the most pronounced effect on homicide rates in countries characterized by high levels of gross domestic production and economic freedom. However, Stack’s (1984) large cross-national study of property crime rates did not find support for such a pattern.

Another approach has been to use multinational survey data to study how cultural values and beliefs moderate the inequality-crime effect. Chamlin and Sanders (2013) found strong support for anomie theory by studying drug trafficking rates across a sample of 43 European nations. The study revealed a more pronounced effect of economic inequality on the drug trafficking rate of countries where more people express a strong commitment to the goal of economic success. Another supportive study is Halpern’s (2001), which found economic inequality to have a more pronounced effect on crime victimization rates in countries high in normlessness (labeled in the study as “self-interest values”). However, two comprehensive tests of anomie theory (discussed later in the special section “Cultural (GoalsMeans) Disjuncture”) find no support for an interaction effect between economic inequality, on the one hand, and measures of the culture-of-success disjuncture, on the other hand (Baumer & Gustafson, 2007; Schaible & Altheimer, 2016).

As Chamlin and Cochran (2005) have emphasized, anomie theory implies that what causes anomie is not merit-based inequality (or, in Durkheim’s terms, “natural inequalities”) but inequality in opportunity (i.e., ascribed inequality, or inequality shaped by privilege). This issue is often overlooked in the empirical research, since the Gini coefficient and other typical measures of economic inequality measure only inequality in outcomes but do not tell how inequality is produced and re-produced in a given society. Using such measures thus fails to separate “ascribed” inequality from “achieved” inequality.

However, as Messner (1982) implies, this may be a purely theoretical problem. Sociologists have long argued how social inequality generates entrenched patterns of social privilege, emphasizing how the reproduction of inequality is shaped by unequal life chances (Bourdieu, 1986). As research shows (Jerrim & Macmillan, 2015), countries characterized by higher levels of economic inequality have lower rates of upward mobility. In this vein, Blau and Blau (1982) argue that in democratic societies, such as the United States, a high level of economic inequality generates a perception of ascribed inequality among disadvantaged members of the society, since many of them see the affluence of others but experience limited opportunity to attain affluence themselves. This perception contradicts proclaimed democratic values and norms, generating normlessness, frustration, and violent crime (p. 119). In particular, since racial inequality is so apparently ascriptive in nature it should generate a high rate of violent crime. In support, Blau and Blau found both economic inequality and black–white inequality to influence metropolitan violent crime rates in the United States.

Scholars have addresses the ascribed versus achieved inequality issue differently, by using survey data to measure shared perceptions of illegitimacy. Chamlin and Cochran (2006) found aggregate perceptions of economic illegitimacy to impact only the homicide rates of the highly “modernized” countries. The authors speculate that a perception of illegitimate inequality may be “particularly disintegrative” in developed societies where the legitimacy of social stratification rests not on custom and kinship but on “rational–legal” criteria. In such contexts, therefore, illegitimate inequality may “weaken the moral authority of conventional norms and values” and “promote the incidence of selfish and hedonistic behavior, including homicide” (p. 249).

But other work has indicated that objective measures of illegitimate, or discriminatory, inequality impact criminal violence across the modern world. Messner (1989) has studied a heterogeneous sample of nations and found a measure of economic discrimination against minorities to positively influence country homicide, net of the economic inequality level.

Cultural (Goals–Means) Disjuncture

A few macro-level studies have used aggregated survey responses to measure cultural disjuncture. Such research has provided support for the impact of cultural disjuncture on social crime rates. Baumer and Gustafson (2007) found higher crime rates in US counties where commitment to economic success goals was strong but the commitment to the legitimate means was weak. Furthermore, commitment to economic goals had a more effect on the crime rate in counties where access to legitimate means was limited (i.e., where unemployment was high and economic attainment low). Cross-national research has revealed similar patterns (Chamlin & Sanders, 2013; Halpern, 2001; Schaible & Altheimer, 2016; Stults & Baumer, 2008). Schaible and Altheimer (2016) studied a heterogeneous sample of 35 countries and found that homicide rates were higher in “de-institutionalized” countries, that is, where populations express a comparatively strong commitment to economic success goals but a comparatively weak commitment to using the legitimate means to achieve success.

Anomie and Social Institutions—Institutional Anomie Theory (IAT)

Since the mid-1990s, institutional anomie theory (IAT), Messner and Rosenfeld’s (2007) extension of classic anomie theory, has inspired new questions in macro-level crime research. IAT elaborates and systematizes two prominent ideas in the works of Merton and Durkheim, namely, (1) that a shared, strong commitment to economic success goals breeds anomie, and (2) that the values emerging in the capitalist market economy weaken the social controls provided by non-economic social institutions. IAT views these two trends as mutually reinforcing and as both increasing the social crime rate.

IAT posits that anomie both results from as well as exacerbates a particular imbalance between the society’s major institutions, that is, the economy, the polity, the education, and the family (Messner & Rosenfeld, 2007). One the one hand, a cultural dominance of the value orientations of the capitalist market economy, namely, the pursuit of self-interest, attraction to monetary rewards, and competition, breeds the type of cultural disjuncture described by Merton, namely, a shared, exaggerated support for economic goals coupled with a weak support for normative means. On the other hand, the dominance of economic values in social life weakens the non-economic institutions. The different institutions comprise different value orientations that may entail competing demands and duties. Economic values, such as self-interest, economic goals, and competition, are thus inconsistent with non-economic values, such as caring for others or one’s community. As economic values begin to dominate social roles, they undermine the authority of non-economic values and reduce informal social control. Individuals receive more social rewards, such as prestige, for performing economic roles than non-economic roles, and they often experience a demand to give priority to economic roles (e.g., to skip family dinner so that they can work overtime). The function of the non-economic institutions in providing informal social control through socialization and social sanctions is thus weakened. Thus, when the institutional balance of power is tilted toward the economy, that is, when economic values assume a higher priority than noneconomic values in organizing social life, crime increases.

IAT posits highly abstract concepts that are difficult to measure unambiguously (Weld & Roche, 2017). Accordingly, research has invented various methods to address the theory, if usually partially. One method is to tackle the relations between the economy and the polity, by assuming that the level of “de-commodification,” that is, the extent to which the state provides social welfare to counter the tendency of the market economy to create economic winners and losers, is indicative of the reduced domination of economic values vis-à-vis political (non-economic) values. Such research lends support for IAT. Low welfare state spending (relative to GDP) influences country homicide rates (Messner & Rosenfeld, 1997), and enhances the association between economic inequality and homicide (Savolainen, 2000).

Another way to address IAT has been to measure the strength of non-economic institutions with data on divorce rates, voter turnout, civic engagement, educational and welfare expenditure, and the like. This approach has been applied in cross-national comparative work (Dolliver, 2015) as well as in research on states or counties in the United States (Maume & Lee, 2003). Some of this research has found that in areas where non-economic institutions are stronger crime rates are lower; moreover, the criminogenic effects of high poverty rates appear to be less pronounced in such areas (Chamlin & Cochran, 1995). Furthermore, Baumer and Gustafson (2007) found that the goal–means disjuncture had a less pronounced effect on the crime rates of counties characterized by higher welfare assistance and family socializing levels. These studies all lend partial support for IAT.

Research has studied institutional imbalance by using aggregated survey data on value commitments to measure the relative strength of social institutions (Hughes, Schaible, & Gibbs, 2015). But the problem with this approach is that individual commitments may not reflect institutionalized practices (Weld & Roche, 2017). This approach may be more valid in purely individual-level research focusing on how imbalanced institutional commitments of individuals relate to their delinquent behavior (Stults & Falco, 2014).

Messner et al. (2008) have suggested that time use may reveal the value that a society places on economic versus non-economic roles and goals. But applying this method has not produced support for IAT. Weld and Roche (2017) used multinational survey data on how much people across 29 countries spend their time on economic versus non-economic activity. But the study found no support for IAT. Time use had no direct effect on country homicide rates. Moreover, contrary to what IAT would expect, a positive interaction effect emerged between the two types of time use, that is, economic time use had a more pronounced effect on homicide in countries where non-economic time use was greater.

Anomie Theory, IAT, and Multilevel Research—Macro–Micro, and Cross-Level Links

In a theoretical paper, Baumer (2007) has argued that since classic anomie theory, particularly Merton’s work, entails propositions about macro–micro linkages, the theory should be studied in a multilevel framework, using multilevel research designs. Such designs allow the research to integrate societal- and individual-level data by using specialized statistics (i.e., hierarchical regression). Baumer’s point is that multilevel work makes it possible to comprehensively test the cross-level implications of anomie theory, which argues how broad social conditions (i.e., shared values and the structure of opportunity) shape not only individual values, strains, and behavior, but also the relations among these.

In the spirit of Baumer’s discussion, scholars have used multinational survey work to conduct multilevel tests of the effects of country-level characteristics on various indicators of individual normlessness (Cao, Zhao, & Ren, 2010; Cullen, Parboteeah, & Hoegl, 2004; Hövermann, Groβ‎, & Messner, 2016; Hövermann, Tuliao, & Chen 2017; Martin, Cullen, Johnson, & Parboteeah, 2007; Zito, 2018). Such work provides partial support for anomie theory, particularly for the IAT extension. For example, Tuliao and Chen (2017) found that supervisors express more willingness to justify ethically suspect behaviors if they belong to countries where economic inequality is high and non-economic institutions are weak (likewise, see Cullen et al., 2004). Hövermann et al. (2016) show that in countries where the level of economic dominance is high (i.e., where the levels of economic inequality and fiscal freedom levels are high, but the levels of social welfare and government spending are low) individuals exhibit a higher level of “marketized mentality” (i.e., value self-enhancement over self-transcendence). But, one limitation of this multilevel, cross-national work is that it does not study actual crime (but, see a school-level application by Groß, Hövermann, & Messner, 2018).

Moreover, as Baumer (2007) has envisioned, multilevel work (Groß et al., 2018; Zito, 2018) has proven to be useful in studying the cross-level implications of anomie theory (note: the micro-level implications are discussed more broadly in a special section, “Micro-Level Extensions and Applications of Anomie Theory”). In a multilevel study, Zito (2018) studied the direct and the interacting effects of national- and individual-level factors on the willingness to justify morally dubious behavior. The study revealed two major sets of findings. First, in support for macro-level anomie theory (particularly IAT), individuals are more likely to justify morally dubious behavior if they live in countries (1) where levels of both economic inequality and economic freedom are high, (2) where non-economic institutions are weak, and (3) where there is a strong culture of monetary fetishism. Second, underscoring the cross-level implications of anomie theory (Baumer, 2007), the study found financial hardship to have more pronounced effects on justifications in countries characterized by high levels of economic affluence and economic inequality, and by a strong culture of individualism. The criminogenic effects of individual strain appear to be contingent upon the broader social and cultural structure.

Social Change, Post-Communist Transition, and Globalization

Durkheim’s initial emphasis on rapid social change as a major cause of anomie has long inspired scholars to address the link between social change and crime. Early research on this topic often studied how modernization, that is, indicators such as a country’s level of urbanity and division of labor, impacted crime rates (e.g., Krohn, 1978). But in the 2000s and 2010s researchers have seen the transition from state-run to market-driven economies in post-communist countries, as well as in China, as an opportunity to apply and test anomie theory. Pridemore, Chamlin, and Cochran (2007) found large increases in crime, suicide, and alcohol-related deaths in Russia in the 1990s and 2000s, during a time of disruptive conversion into a marketized society. Liu (2005) found large increases in economically motivated crime in China from 1978 to 1999, during a period of transition from state socialism to a market economy. Stamatel (2017) combined country-level data on property crime across post-communist East and Central European countries in the period 1990 to 2003, that is, in the wake of the fall of the communist regimes. The study found that higher levels of marketization and democratization, which in this period were indicative of higher levels of social disruption, were positively associated with property crime rates.

Studies have provided evidence that supports the link between social change and individual normlessness. Zhao and Cao’s (2010) cross-national study compared individual normlessness across countries, using survey items asking respondents about the legitimacy of various instrumental crime-related scenarios. The study found that citizens of Eastern European countries, which at the time were undergoing a social transition, exhibited more normlessness than citizens of other countries (see also Bjarnason, 2009). A study by Cao, Zhao, Ren, and Zhao (2009) found an association between fast population growth and normlessness. But, while research supports the idea that swift social change is conducive to normlessness, research has rarely directly tested whether normlessness mediates the impact of social change on social crime rates.

Finally, scholars have drawn attention to the role that economic globalization may play in producing anomie and crime, a neglected issue in the anomie tradition. Studying this issue, Levchak (2015) argues that economic globalization may generate crime in two major ways. First, in the spirit of Durkheim, economic globalization entails rapid changes that may render the moral authority of social rules and standards weak or irrelevant. Second, as implied by Messner and Rosenfeld’s IAT, economic globalization may strengthen the dominance of the economy over non-economic social institutions, increasing anomie and weakening informal social control. Levchak measured economic globalization by developing an indicator of a country’s “net investments,” that is, the level of “capital flows and equity investments of foreign firms or investors into a domestic economy” (p. 396). Although the study did not examine the intermediate mechanisms (i.e., it does not measure anomie or economic dominance), it found that transnational “net investment” was positively related to country homicide, net of controls. Increased research attention to the effect of globalization (economic and otherwise) on crime may provide new research discoveries in the future.

Micro-Level Extensions and Applications of Anomie Theory

As explained earlier, although anomie is a group-level condition, by which broad structural conditions or changes impact a society’s crime rate, anomie theory has implications for crime differences between individuals and smaller groups within a society. Again, Merton’s notion of structural strain, often referred to in the literature as “classic strain,” implies that those in structural positions that provide restricted (or even no) access to legitimate opportunities for economic success are especially vulnerable to criminogenic strain of the culture-of-success. Drawing attention to the criminogenic effects of frustrated aspirations, strain theory has long inspired and informed research on adolescent delinquency and neighborhood gangs.

A common strategy of operationalizing individual-level strain has been to assume that individuals are differently committed to the goal of economic success, and therefore respond differently to blocked opportunities. Thus, having high success aspirations and low success expectations should generate more criminogenic strain than, say, having low aspirations and low success expectations. But support for this hypothesis has been mixed; the findings seem to depend on how the aspirations–expectations disjunction is operationalized. Early work usually examined a disjunction between educational aspirations and educational expectations among juveniles, providing little support for strain theory (Liska, 1971). But, as Farnworth and Leiber (1989) argue, measuring a discrepancy between economic aspirations and educational expectations is more consistent with classic strain theory. In support, research finds that adolescents who have high economic goals but low educational expectations exhibit higher rates of delinquent behavior (Farnworth & Leiber, 1989; Hoffman & Ireland, 2004).

Agnew, Cullen, Burton, Evans, and Dunaway (1996) have tested classic strain theory by including a subjective measure of monetary status dissatisfaction. The study found, in support for strain theory, that (1) low socioeconomic status was associated with monetary status dissatisfaction; (2) high economic goals and low expectations about future economic success were associated with monetary status dissatisfaction: and, in turn, (3) monetary status dissatisfaction was associated with income-generating crime and drug use. But monetary status dissatisfaction had a more pronounced effect on criminal behavior of those whose friends engaged in criminal behavior.

It thus appears that the criminogenic effect of strain may be contingent upon small-group processes as well as opportunities entailed in social ties. In fact, during the 1950s scholars argued that anomie theory should be integrated with subculture and opportunity theories. Thus, Cohen (1955) argued that the emergence of delinquent subcultures among low-class youths may be seen as a type of subcultural adaptation to structural strain. Strained youths may collectively adapt to the perceived unavailability of legitimate means to achieve success by adopting alternative status systems that subverse conventional norms. It is hard to test this idea with quantitative data, but qualitative work has illustrated how troubled working-class kids may adapt to blocked opportunities by collectively creating a status system that defies common norms (Willis, 1977).

Moreover, Cloward (1959) argued that the effect of classic strain on crime and delinquency may be moderated by structured access to illegitimate opportunity. Criminal behavior often requires, and is enhanced by, embeddedness in delinquent or criminal networks entailing social learning mechanisms (techniques, attitudes, etc.) as well as access to networks allowing individuals to profit from crime. Accordingly, criminal associations may explain why some individuals adapt to classic strain by engaging in crime. In a subsequent work, Cloward and Ohlin (1964) argued that low-class youths are differently exposed to criminal opportunity structures in their neighborhoods, and therefore they adapt differently to strain. Some low-class youths are raised in neighborhoods in which well-developed illegitimate opportunity structures have evolved. These youths are exposed to opportunities to learn and use illegal means for their advantage, and hence are more likely to adapt to strain with utilitarian criminal behavior. Conversely, low-class youths in neighborhoods with no legitimate or illegitimate opportunities tend to adapt to strain by forming subcultures of violence and vandalism.

While the link between classic strain and criminal behavior appears to be contingent upon ties to delinquent others (Agnew et al., 1996), limited evidence exists on whether the strain–crime link is moderated by the illegitimate opportunity structure of the local community. The exception is a study by Hoffman and Ireland (2004). These authors examined whether the association between strain (the disjunction between economic goals and perceived educational opportunities) and adolescent delinquency was contingent on the school’s illegitimate opportunity structure (a summary index of the school-level of delinquency, delinquent values, school problems, and school quality). The study found that the effect of aspiration–expectation disjuncture on individual delinquency was not moderated by the school’s opportunity structure. More research is needed on Cloward and Ohlin’s thesis.

Research on the criminogenic impact of relative deprivation, that is, of unfavorable social comparison, can be seen as a part of the legacy of classic strain theory. As Passas (1997) has argued, in societies characterized by equal opportunity ideals and economic materialism, reference group comparisons may tend to be focused upward, with many individuals in the lower and middle classes experiencing anger and injustice due to unfavorable comparisons to more affluent members of the society. Research indicates that relative deprivation is associated with delinquency (Agnew et al., 1996; Antonaccio, Smith, & Gostjev, 2015; Baron, 2004). Studying Icelandic adolescents, Bernburg, Thorlindsson, and Sigfusdottir (2009) found household economic deprivation to have a more pronounced effect on adolescent anger, normlessness, delinquency, and violence in affluent neighborhoods (where comparisons of poor youths to other residents are unfavorable) than in impoverished neighborhoods (where comparisons of poor youths to other residents are more favorable).

Since the early 1990s, Agnew’s (1992) general strain theory has moved delinquency research to attend to the criminogenic role of other types of social strain. Agnew’s theory includes three major categories of social strain. First, strain may stem from actual or anticipated failure to achieve positively valued goals. This type of strain includes the failure to achieve culturally valued economic goals (i.e., classic strain), as well as strain stemming from a failure to achieve other valued goals, such as being popular or getting good grades. Second, actual or anticipated removal of positively valued stimuli may cause strain (e.g., loss of a parent or a friend). The third strain type is noxious stimuli, such as being the victim of violence or sexual abuse. Agnew proposes that each of these strains may trigger negative emotions, including disappointment, fear, and anger. In particular, anger increases creates a desire for retaliation, energizes the individual for action, and lowers inhibitions, and hence increases the likelihood of delinquent behavior. In short, the theory argues that the three major types of social strains increase the likelihood of delinquency because strain often triggers anger and frustration. Finally, various other social and personal factors are likely to determine whether strain leads individuals to engage in delinquency, for example value commitments, social bonding, and involvement in delinquent associations or networks.

But due to its psychological focus, general strain theory research rarely addresses macro-sociological issues. Yet the broad view of social strain has added to an understanding of the role of social strain in youth delinquency. Various types of social strain seem to increase delinquency, including negative life events, conflict with parents, and parental fighting, and such effects are often conditioned by factors such as association with delinquent peers and having values conducive to delinquency (Baron, 2004; Brezina, 1996).

The Intermediate Role of Individual Normlessness (Anomia/Microanomie)

Although the notion that lacking emotional commitment to social norms is a major source of criminal behavior is fundamental to classic anomie theory, micro-level work on anomie/strain theory often does not directly measure individual normlessness (Bernard, 1987). But there are exceptions (Thorlindsson & Bjarnason, 1998). Menard (1995) has examined classic strain theory by including a measure of individual normlessness, or “anomia,” with survey items asking youths whether they think that socially unapproved behaviors are necessary to achieve valued goals. Menard found low socioeconomic status to positively influence anomia, in part through the negative effects of socioeconomic status on educational performance and expectations of success. In turn, anomia was associated with delinquent behavior. In support for classic strain theory, limited access to legitimate means appears conducive to anomia and involvement in crime.

Inspired by anomie theory, Hagan, Hefler, Classen, Bohenke, and Merkens (1998) argue that the core values of the market economy, namely, the emphasis on competition and individual achievement, can promote an excessive emphasis on individual self-interest that in turn may generate “anomic amorality” (a lack of commitment to the normative means) and delinquency. Related, Konty (2005) argues that individuals may be imbalanced in terms of their commitment to values that promote social interest (self-transcendent values) and values that promote self-interest (self-enhancing values). When individuals are more strongly committed to self-enhancing values than to self-transcending values they are in a state of microanomie. Microanomie is criminogenic in that it encourages individuals to pursue self-interested goals by using any means necessary. Konty implies that microanomie may be more prevalent in societies characterized by the dominance of the economy in the institutional balance of power, as Messner and Rosenfeld’s institutional anomie theory suggests. Although providing no evidence for this macro–micro link, Konty’s study confirms a positive association between microanomie and delinquency.

Illustrating the diffused effects of anomie theory on criminology, scholars guided by other theoretical traditions have viewed individual normlessness as an intermediate process linking social structure with delinquency. Neighborhood community research provides a case in point. Such research indicates that a community concentration of economic disadvantage may lead to an “attenuation” of normative values (Warner, 2003) or “legal cynicism” (Sampson & Bartusch, 1998) among community residents. Moreover, supporting the idea that social ties between community residents function to communicate and reinforce youth commitments to social norms, multilevel research finds that dense neighborhood networks reduce adolescent normlessness and delinquency (Bernburg & Thorlindsson, 2007; Valdimarsdóttir & Bernburg, 2015). Furthermore, in the spirit of Durkheim, research has found the neighborhood-level strength of traditional institutions (i.e., religion) to reduce adolescent delinquency through reduced normlessness (Thorlindsson & Bernburg, 2004).

White-Collar and Business/Corporate Crime

Although most of the work extending and applying anomie theory focuses on street crime, scholars have argued how anomie/strain theory may inform research on white-collar and business/corporate crime. Such a focus is in fact quite consistent with Durkheim’s classic idea that the sphere of “trade and industry” is in a continuous state of anomie. For Durkheim, again, modern economic life tends to become disembedded from the moral regulation of traditional institutions (religion, family), which therefore allows economic values to dominate and render the aspirations of individuals limitless (for more discussion on this point, see Bernburg, 2002). In support, Burkatzki’s (2008) survey of working Germans found that individuals who have a high degree of “market inclusion” (i.e., who are self-employed or are high-ranking employees) tend to strongly value economic success while exhibiting a weak commitment to social norms. Building on Durkheim’s thought, Messner and Rosenfeld’s IAT argues that as economic values become more dominating in social life, social control stemming from non-economic values is weakened. In this vein, a cultural emphasis on economic success seems salient in contemporary business where a strong emphasis on economic goals likely shapes the ethical climate within business organizations. This in turn may promote organizational cultures that rationalize and neutralize crime and unethical conduct (Passas, 1990, 1997).

Scholars have also argued that Merton’s notion of classic strain toward normlessness and crime may not necessarily be confined to disadvantaged members of the society. Strain due the culture-of-success may occur in the middle and higher social strata as well, where equal opportunity ideals and materialistic values promote upward comparisons and relative deprivation. As Passas (1990, p. 159) argues, “the meaning and content of success goals vary from one part of the social structure to another, similar difficulties in attaining diversely defined goals may be faced by people in the upper social reaches too; they are, therefore, far from immune to pressures toward deviance.” Research on this point is limited, but there is evidence that can be interpreted to negate the idea of upper-class strain. In a cross-national, multilevel study, Cullen et al. (2004) found that managers belonging to cultures that strongly value individualism and achievement were actually less willing to accept unethical behavior.

Limited business/corporate crime research has operationalized the concepts of anomie or classic strain in a systematic manner. As data on such crime are hard to come by, the existing work often comprises qualitative case studies (Vaughan, 1997) and qualitative interviews (Akkeren & Buckby, 2017; Cheng, 2012) and sometimes rely merely on illustrative case descriptions (Kang & Thosuwanchot, 2017). Yet, systematic tests do exist. Illustrative of how anomie theory can guide research on business/corporate crime is Martin et al.’s (2007) cross-national, multilevel study of firm-level bribery. The authors used anomie theory to hypothesize about the effects of cultural–national characteristics and firm-level pressures on bribery activity. Relying on self-reports of representatives of 3,769 firms in 38 countries, this multilevel study revealed a pattern of direct and interacting effects supporting both the macro- and the micro-level implications of anomie theory. In support for IAT, the study revealed that the association between national-level achievement orientation and firm-level bribery was positive in countries characterized by relatively weak political institutions (i.e., by low levels of socialist welfare and political restraints). But, in contrast, the association was negative in countries where political institutions were relatively strong. Furthermore, underscoring the micro-level implications of anomie and classic strain, firms that faced more financial and competitive pressure exhibited more bribery activity than other firms. However, the study did not test how or if the association between firm-level strain and bribery was moderated by the national-level (cultural and institutional) factors. As Zito (2018) has underscored, this strategy may be a key in testing the cross-level implications of anomie theory.

Moreover, some research has examined firm-level crime within a single society. Wang and Holtfreter (2012) studied legal actions against 455 corporations in 17 industries in the United States. Inspired by Cloward and Ohlin’s (1964) argument that classic strain increases crime when illegitimate opportunities are available, the authors examined how corporate crime was impacted by the direct and interacting effects of corporation- and industry-level strains, on the one hand, and corporation- and industry-level illegitimate opportunities, on the other hand. But the study found weak support for the role of strain (declining economic performance) on corporate crime, and no effect of illegitimate opportunity (e.g., of belonging to an industry where violations are common). More work is needed to determine if and how these types of tests are sensitive to different methods of operationalizing classic strain and illegitimate opportunity at the organizational/industry level.

Finally, scholars have used anomie theory to explain white-collar crime committed by individuals. For example, Schoepfer and Piquero (2006) applied IAT to study the rate of embezzlement across US states. The study found partial support for IAT in that the strength of the non-economic institutions (measured by rates of divorce, high-school graduation, and voter turnout) was associated with lower rates of embezzlement.

In short, application of anomie theory in research on business/corporate and white-collar crime research has already proven to be fruitful, and again multilevel work seems particularly promising. But more research is needed.


Anomie theory brings attention to the ways in which social (dis)organization weakens the power of shared values and norms in constraining individual behavior and aspirations, revealing several major macro-level as well as micro-level criminogenic processes. Consistent with anomie theory, macro-level research has found support for the role of social and economic inequality, excessive materialism/cultural disjuncture, the dominance of economic versus non-economic institutions, and rapid social change (including globalization) in societal crime rates. But, the literature comprises different ways of conceptualizing the unit of analysis as well as multiple ways of hypothesizing and constructing the key measures, making it hard to reach firm, general conclusions. Moreover, comprehensive tests that do full justice to anomie theory are rare. Usually some major element (e.g., the intermediate process) is absent from the work. Following Baumer (2007), a comprehensive test of anomie theory requires both aggregate- and individual-level measures of inequality/opportunity, social values, and criminal behavior. Research that combines official statistics and survey data in a multilevel framework appears to be the most promising way to advance the macro-level research on anomie and crime. During the 2010s such work has provided important new support for anomie theory. Such work indicates how increased use of multilevel research may lead to an integration of the macro-level and the micro-level extensions and applications of anomie theory in the future.

However, the research needs to confront the question of what unit of analysis is appropriate for testing anomie theory. Durkheim (1897/1951) emphasized that anomie is not merely distributed by social class or individual-based disadvantage. Rather, different spheres of the society, particularly the market economy, tend to be more anomic than others. Accordingly, constructing anomie as a societal-level condition may not always be appropriate. With rare exception (Burkatzki, 2008), this vital point has rarely been addressed in the research.

Anomie theory has inspired different methodological and theoretical strategies to capture the individual-level manifestation of anomie. Scholars have focused on the role of opportunities and subculture in specifying how individuals adapt to blocked opportunities, and they have argued that anomie results in individual strain that can be measured by focusing on goals–means disjunction, perception of limited life chances, relative deprivation, and subjective dissatisfaction with monetary status. But only limited work has examined how lacking normative commitment—anomia, normlessness, microanomie—influences criminal behavior. As the variety of individual-level approaches bears witness to, the broad social forces posited by anomie theory may impact crime through different social and psychological mechanisms (as Merton, 1968, emphasized). As each of these approaches provides at least some support for the validity of these mechanisms, strain and anomie theories will continue to guide research on individual differences in crime. But more research is needed on how broad social forces influence and embed these micro-level mechanisms. Again, multilevel designs can address such cross-level linkages (e.g., Hövermann et al., 2016; Martin et al., 2007; Zito, 2018).

Finally, anomie theory research needs to move beyond the common focus on delinquency and street crime in order to examine the full range of the explanatory power of anomie theory. More systematic research is needed to demonstrate how anomie/classic strain influences business and white-collar crime. Operationalization of the key concepts in this area of research is a major challenge but needs to be developed in future work. Comprehensive tests seem to require data on the perceptions, values, and behaviors of individual actors as well as on corporate-level, and even industry-level, values, strains, and opportunities.

Further Reading

Baumer, E. P. (2007). Untangling research puzzles in Merton’s multilevel anomie theory. Theoretical Criminology, 11, 63–93.Find this resource:

    Berk, B. B. (2006). Macro-micro relationships in Durkheim’s analysis of egoistic suicide. Sociological Theory, 24(1), 58–80.Find this resource:

      Bernburg, J. G. (2002). Anomie, social change and crime: A theoretical examination of institutional-anomie theory. British Journal of Criminology, 42, 729–742.Find this resource:

        Chamlin, M. B., & Cochran, J. K. (2005). Ascribed economic inequality and homicide among modern societies. Homicide Studies, 9(1), 3–29.Find this resource:

          Featherstone, R., & Deflem, M. (2003). Anomie and strain: Context and consequences of Merton’s two theories. Sociological Inquiry, 73(4), 471–489.Find this resource:

            Hilbert, R. A., & Wright, C. W. (1979). Representations of Merton’s theory of anomie. American Sociologist, 14, 150–156.Find this resource:

              Jensen, G. (2002). Institutional anomie and societal variations in crime: A critical appraisal. International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 22(7/8), 45–74.Find this resource:

                Messner, S. F. (1988). Merton’s “social structure and anomie”: The road not taken. Deviant Behavior, 9, 33–55.Find this resource:

                  Messner, S. F., & Rosenfeld, R. (2007). Crime and the American Dream (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.Find this resource:

                    Messner, S. F., Thome, H., & Rosenfeld, R. (2008). Institutions, anomie, and violent crime: Clarifying and elaborating institutional-anomie theory. International Journal of Conflict and Violence, 2(2), 163–181.Find this resource:

                      Orrú, M. (1987). Anomie: History and meanings. Boston: Allen & Unwin.Find this resource:

                        Passas, N., & Agnew, R. (Eds.). (1997). The future of anomie theory. Boston: Northeastern University Press.Find this resource:


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                                                                    Cao, L., Zhao, R., & Ren, L. (2010). Social support and anomie: A multilevel analysis of anomie in Europe and North America. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 54(4), 625–639.Find this resource:

                                                                      Cao, L., Zhao, R., Ren, L., & Zhao, J. S. (2009). Social support and anomie: A multilevel analysis of anomie in Europe and North America. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 54, 625–639.Find this resource:

                                                                        Chamlin, M. B., & Cochran, J. K. (1995). Assessing Messner and Rosenfeld‘s institutional anomie theory: A partial test. Criminology, 33, 411–429.Find this resource:

                                                                          Chamlin, M. B., & Cochran, J. K. (2005). Ascribed economic inequality and homicide among modern societies. Homicide Studies, 9(1), 3–29.Find this resource:

                                                                            Chamlin, M. B., & Cochran, J. K. (2006). Economic inequality, legitimacy, and cross-national homicide rates. Homicide Studies, 10(4), 231–252.Find this resource:

                                                                              Chamlin, M. B., & Sanders, B. A. (2013). Falsifying Merton’s macro-level anomie theory of profit-motivated crime: A research note. Deviant Behavior, 34, 961–972.Find this resource:

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                                                                                        Cullen, J. B., Parboteeah, K. P., & Hoegl, M. (2004). Cross-national differences in managers’ willingness to justify ethically suspect behaviors: A test of institutional anomie theory. Academy of Management Journal, 47, 411–421.Find this resource:

                                                                                          Dolliver, D. S. (2015). Cultural and institutional adaptation and change in Europe: A test of institutional anomie theory using time series modelling of homicide data. British Journal of Criminology, 55, 747–768.Find this resource:

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                                                                                                Farnworth, M., & Leiber, M. J. (1989). Strain theory revisited: Economic goals, educational means, and delinquency. American Sociological Review, 54, 263–274.Find this resource:

                                                                                                  Featherstone, R., & Deflem, M. (2003). Anomie and strain: Context and consequences of Merton’s two theories. Sociological Inquiry, 73(4), 471–489.Find this resource:

                                                                                                    Groß, E. M., Hövermann, A. S., & Messner, S. F. (2018). Marketized mentality, competitive/egoistic school culture, and delinquent attitudes and behavior: An application of institutional anomie theory. Criminology, 56, 333–369.Find this resource:

                                                                                                      Hagan, J., Hefler, G., Classen, G., Bohenke, K., & Merkens, H. (1998). Subterranean sources of subcultural delinquency: Beyond the American Dream. Criminology, 36, 309–342.Find this resource:

                                                                                                        Halpern, D. (2001). Moral values, social trust and inequality: Can values explain crime? British Journal of Criminology, 41, 236–251.Find this resource:

                                                                                                          Hilbert, R. A., & Wright, C. W. (1979). Representations of Merton’s theory of anomie. American Sociologist, 14, 150–156.Find this resource:

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