MICROANOMIE: THE COGNITIVE FOUNDATIONS OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ANOMIE AND DEVIANCE*

Authors


  • *

    I need to thank participants in the sociology department's faculty research forum, Lynn Smith-Lovin, Michael Polakowski, Linda Molm, Ron Brieger, James Short, Melissa Fry and Ned Fortson, for guidance and comments on earlier versions of this work. This research was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (#0000296). Direct all correspondence to this author at Box 644020, Pullman, WA 99164-4020.

Abstract

Emile Durkheim and Robert Merton spawned a century of research on the effects of anomie on rule-breaking behavior. During that time “strain” emerged as the social psychological mechanism producing deviant behavior from the effects of anomie. This research challenges the primacy of the affective strain mechanism, arguing that anomie produces a cognitive state—referred to as microanomie—where self-enhancing values are higher priority than self-transcending values. Data from a sample of university students support the association between dominant self-enhancing values and deviant behavior. These data also demonstrate how the microanomie condition can explain gender differences in offending. A synthesis with the affective strain mechanism is suggested.

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