Institutional Anomie Theory

Jukka Savolainen

in Criminology

ISBN: 9780195396607
Published online April 2011 | | DOI:
Institutional Anomie Theory

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As a distinct explanatory framework, institutional anomie theory emerged in criminology in the mid-1990s. The first edition of Messner and Rosenfeld’s book Crime and the American Dream appeared in 1994 which is also when the first empirical application of the theory was presented at the forty-sixth annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology—this study was later published in the journal Social Forces. Institutional anomie theory (IAT, henceforth) is best understood as an elaboration of macrolevel elements in Robert K. Merton’s classic anomie theory. Following Merton, IAT retains the idea of systemic imbalance as a source of aggregate-level differences in criminal offending. The theory derives its name from its focus on “institutional balance of power” as the causally salient macro-level entity. Messner and Rosenfeld argue that an institutional arrangement where the (market) economy is allowed to dominate without sufficient restraints from other institutional spheres, such as the family and the polity, will be particularly criminogenic. They propose that the American society is an example of such a social system, in part because capitalism developed in the United States in a virgin territory as far as preexisting institutional structures. It is notable that, at the level of individual behavior, IAT is independent of strain theoretical assumptions frequently associated with Merton’s anomie theory. Indeed, by focusing on the restraining potential of families and other conventional institutions, IAT is highly compatible with control theoretical explanations of crime. This bibliography is organized into four sections. The first section covers publications focused on theoretical discussions of IAT. This is followed by the literature dedicated to empirical tests of hypotheses derived from the theory. The third section consists of research studies that cannot be characterized as direct “tests” of IAT but are nevertheless informed by the theory. The bibliography concludes with a list of review articles.

Article.  3678 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Criminal Justice ; Criminology

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