1. (noun) Normlessness or social instability caused by the erosion or absence of morals, norms, standards, and values in a society.
2. (noun) A personal state of alienation, anxiety, and purposelessness caused by social instability and the loss of regulation.
Audio Pronunciation: (an·o·mie)
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- Term popularized by Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) in Suicide (1897).
- Variant form:
- Also called:
- anomie theory
- A society experiencing anomie is (adjective) anomic.
- “Anomie, therefore, is a regular and specific factor in causing suicide in our modern societies. It is one of the sources feeding the annual totals. This is a new type that must be distinguished from the others. It differs from them in that it does not depend on the way in which individuals are attached to society, but on the way in which they are regulated by society. Egoistic suicide stems from the fact that men no longer see a reason for living; altruistic suicide comes from the fact that this reason appears to them to lie outside life itself; the third kind of suicide, whose existence we have just established, comes from the fact that their activity is unregulated and they suffer as a consequence. Because of its origin, we shall call this last type ‘anomic suicide'” (Durkheim  2004:81).
- “No society lacks norms governing conduct. But societies do differ in the degree to which folkways, mores and institutional controls are effectively integrated with the goals which stand high in the hierarchy of cultural values. 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 prescribed methods of reaching out for these ends. With such differential emphases upon goals and institutional procedures, the latter may be so vitiated by the stress on goals as to have the behavior of many individuals limited only by considerations of technical expediency. In this context, the sole significant question becomes: Which of the available procedures is most efficient in netting the culturally approved value? The technically most effective procedure, whether culturally legitimate or not, becomes typically preferred to institutionally prescribed conduct. As this process of attenuation continues, the society becomes unstable and there develops what Durkheim called ‘anomie’ (normlessness)” (Merton  1968:189).
- Word origin of “anomie” – Online Etymology Dictionary: etymonline.com
- Adler, Freda, and William S. Laufer. 1995. The Legacy of Anomie Theory. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.
- Baumer, Eric P., and Regan Gustafson. 2007. “Social Organization and Instrumental Crime: Assessing the Empirical Validity of Classic and Contemporary Anomie Theories.” Criminology 45(3):617–63. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9125.2007.00090.x.
- Durkheim, Émile.  2014. The Division of Labor in Society. New York: Free Press.
- Durkheim, Émile.  2006. Suicide. London: Penguin.
- Merton, Robert K. 1938. “Social Structure and Anomie.” American Sociological Review 3(5):672–82. doi:10.2307/2084686.
- Merton. Robert K. 1949. Social Theory and Social Structure. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.
- Messner, S. F., and R. Rosenfeld. 2013. Crime and the American Dream. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
- Passas, Nikos, and Robert Agnew. 1997. The Future of Anomie Theory. Boston: Northeastern University Press.
- Putnam, Robert D. 2000. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon and Schuster.
- Teh, Yik Koon. 2009. “The Best Police Force in the World Will Not Bring Down a High Crime Rate in a Materialistic Society.” International Journal of Police Science and Management 11(1):1–7. doi:10.1350/ijps.2009.11.1.104.
- Waring, E., D. Wesiburd, and E. Chayet. 2000. “White Collar Crime and Anomie.” Pp. 207–77 in The Legacy of Anomie Theory, edited by W. S. Laufer. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.
Durkheim, Émile.  2004. “Suicide.” in Readings from Emile Durkheim. Rev. ed., edited and translated by K. Thompson. New York: Routledge.
Merton, Robert King.  1968. Social Theory and Social Structure. New York: Free Press.
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How to Cite the Definition of Anomie
ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “anomie.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved March 27, 2019
APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)
anomie. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from http://sociologydictionary.org/anomie/
Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “anomie.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed March 27, 2019. http://sociologydictionary.org/anomie/.
MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)
“anomie.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 27 Mar. 2019. <http://sociologydictionary.org/anomie/>.