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Merton's Theory

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One of the well know socialists of the twentieth century is Robert K. Merton (1910-2003). He is a major theorist who is known for creating several pivotal sociological concepts. One of his most important achievements has been the established connection between theory and research, thereby making the way for the course of sociology. Merton favored what he called middle range theories: these are theories that "lie between minor but necessary working hypotheses that evolve in abundance during day to day research and all inclusive systematic efforts to develop a unified theory that will explain all the observed uniformities of social behavior, social organization, and social change" ( Sztompka 1986). But what he gets most of his credit for is his work on the concept of the Manifest and Latent. I intend to explain his concept of Manifest and Latent. And then take a look at his Strain Theory to see whether or not it can explain crime in our society.

Merton explains that there are certain concepts that arise from functionalism they are manifest and latent function . He explains manifest function as the intended result of an action. He also explained that latent function was the unintended result of action. Now Merton is not the one who coined these terms he give that credit to Freud (1915). Both of these men contended that almost every action had manifest and latent functions. Although Merton took it a step further he argued that some times the latent function was far more important than the manifest function. One of his greatest examples of this is the Hopi rain dance. This is where he explained how the dance (action) was to create rain (manifest) although not every time was there rain (latent). But he went further he explain that although the rain did not create rain it created a special bonding (another latent) with in the Hopi tribe. This in essence showed that not all latent functions are bad and that some of the unintended results can have a profound benefit. This is in slight contrast to other socialist then again it is not really. It is Merton expanding on theses philosophies and bringing them current within society.

Now we see that Merton's manifest and latent functions greatly enhanced the notion of society as a system of interwoven parts, not only because he acknowledges there are various functions to each part. But because of the differences of the various functions have with in each part that might not coincide with each other or that they may even conflict. Merton "emphasized that different parts of a system might be at odds with each other and, thus, that even functional or beneficial institutions or sub systems can produce dysfunctions or unintended consequences as well" (Appelrouth).

This brings us to two more parts of Merton's theory, deviance and dysfunction. Merton was extremely influential of the theory of deviance. It is the most cited article in sociology. Merton tried to explain the variances in rates of deviance according to social structural location. To explain deviance from a sociological view deviance refers to the actions that do not conform to the dominant norms or values in a social group or society. Merton believed that deviance came about when there was a disconnect between culture and society. This he said happened when values become out of sync with the means of being able to achieve them. One of the better ways Merton showed this was that success in society means having a good job and making a lot of money. But when there

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