- Stephen JonesStephen JonesHonorary Senior Lecturer, School of Law, University of Bristol
This chapter discusses Robert Merton’s anomie theory, which indicated several possible forms of reaction by individuals who had suffered from the strain of being unable to attain society’s ultimate goal by the institutionalised means made available to them: typically, regular, productive work. For some, the reaction could involve engaging in deviant or criminal behaviour. Merton’s approach was adopted and modified by other sociologists and criminologists who were interested in studying the behaviour of groups—usually of young people—within a society, which deviate from or totally reject the views of the majority. Such groups are referred to by sociologists as subcultures. The use of the term ‘subculture’ has largely centred on juvenile delinquent gangs. This restriction is unfortunate because subculture is a sociological concept that has a wide application, and the relationship with the emotive topic of gangs has, in many ways, proved to be counterproductive.