Untangling research puzzles in Merton's multilevel anomie theory

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The position advanced in this article is that, rather than presenting two analytically distinct theories as often claimed in the literature, the anomie perspective articulated by Robert Merton reflects one multilevel theory of how macro-level social and cultural conditions increase the likelihood of deviance among individuals. In this article, I translate Merton's multilevel theory into a precise causal model and describe how it accounts for variation in instrumental crime both within and across social collectivities. I then highlight the research implications of this multilevel model, including the types of data and methods needed to evaluate the model and the research puzzles that have been largely overlooked owing to the single-level approaches applied in previous explications of Merton's theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-93
Number of pages31
JournalTheoretical Criminology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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