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Toward a General Theory of Anomie The Social Psychology of Disintegration

  • Seth Abrutyn (a1)

Abstract

Though anomie is one of sociology’s most unique conceptual contributions, its progenitor, Emile Durkheim, was notably ambiguous about its meaning. Consequently, its use in contemporary sociology has varied wildly. In part, the confusion surrounding anomie stems from Durkheim’s insistence that it is caused by deregulation, which has resisted operationalization. Nevertheless, careful consideration of the “four faces” of anomie most prominent in the sociological canon—that is, (1) the anomic division of labor, (2) anomic suicide, (3) Mertonian strain, and (4) the micro-level symbolic-cultural versions—reveals that disruption and disintegration, rather than deregulation, are the common threads woven through each. Drawing from this insight, a new theoretical conceptualization for anomie is offered that defines it as (a) a social psychological force operating at both the (b) individual- or “meso”/corporate unit-level of social reality that results from (c) chronic or acute disruptions that, in turn, generate (d) real or imagined disintegrative pressures. Furthermore, disruptions are not only predicated on the real or imagined loss of social ties (dissolution), but also on the real or imagined loss of attachment to a coherent social reality (disjunction) and/or physical space (dislocation). This recalibration allows anomie to enter into deeper dialogue with a wide range of other phenomena that may in fact share some overlapping elements with anomie related to the pain of potentially losing cherished social relationships and the motivation toward self-harm, anti-social and even pro-social behaviors to escape this social pain.

L’anomie a beau être l’une des contributions conceptuelles les plus caractéristiques de la sociologie, son créateur, Émile Durkheim, est resté notablement ambigu quant à sa signification. Par conséquent, son usage dans la sociologie contemporaine a évolué considérablement. La confusion entourant l’anomie découle pour partie de l’insistance de Durkheim sur le fait qu’elle serait causée par le dérèglement, ce qui n’a pu être véritablement opérationnalisé. Néanmoins, l’étude attentive des « quatre visages » de l’anomie qui occupent une place prépondérante dans la tradition sociologique – c’est-à-dire (1) la division anomique du travail, (2) le suicide anomique, (3) la tension Mertonienne et (4) les différentes versions symboliques et culturelles de niveau micro – révèle que la perturbation et l’absence d’intégration, plutôt que le dérèglement, constituent le fil conducteur de chacune d’elles. En s’inspirant de cette idée, cet article propose une nouvelle conceptualisation de l’anomie comme : (a) une force psycho-sociale agissant au niveau (b) de l’individu ou au niveau plus méso d’une unité collective de réalité sociale, et qui résulte (c) de perturbations chroniques ou aiguës qui, à leur tour, génèrent (d) des pressions désintégratrices réelles ou imaginaires. En outre, les perturbations ne sont pas uniquement liées à la perte réelle ou imaginaire de liens sociaux (dissolution), mais également à la perte réelle ou imaginaire d’attachement à une réalité sociale cohérente (disjonction) et/ou à un espace physique (dislocation). Ce recalibrage conceptuel permet à la notion d’anomie d’entretenir un dialogue plus approfondi avec un large éventail d’autres phénomènes, avec lesquels elle partage parfois certains éléments, liés à la douleur de perdre des relations sociales chères ou encore à la motivation, pour échapper à cette souffrance sociale, de se nuire à soi-même ou d’adopter des comportements antisociaux et même parfois pro-sociaux.

Obgleich die Anomie zu einem der charakteristischsten konzeptuellen Beiträge der Soziologie zählt, war ihr Gründervater, Emile Durkheim, in Sachen Bedeutung mehr als doppeldeutig. Infolgedessen wird sie in der zeitgenössischen Soziologie ganz unterschiedlich genutzt. Die der Anomie anhaftende Konfusion geht zum Teil auf die Beharrlichkeit Durkheims zurück, der ihre Entstehung in der Deregulierung sieht, was nicht wirklich operativ bewiesen werden konnte. Nichtsdestotrotz zeigt eine aufmerksame Betrachtung der im soziologischen Kanon sehr bekannten “vier Seiten” der Anomie –1. die anomische Teilung der Arbeit, 2. der anomische Selbstmord, 3. die mertonische Spannung und 4. die verschiedenen symbolischen und kulturellen Varianten der Mikroebene – dass Störungen und mangelnde Integration, mehr als Deregulierung, den Leitfaden jeder einzelnen darstellen. Ausgehend von dieser Idee schlägt der Beitrag eine neue Konzeptualisierung der Anomie vor: a) eine psycho-soziale Kraft agiert b) auf dem Niveau des Individuums oder mehr auf der Mesoebene der sozialen Realität einer kollektiven Einheit, woraus sich c) chronische oder zugespitzte Störungen ergeben, die schließlich d) einen reellen oder erdachten desintegrierenden Druck ausüben. Darüberhinaus sind die Störungen nicht nur auf den reellen oder erdachten Verlust sozialer Netze (Auflösung), sondern auch auf den reellen oder erdachten Verlust von Verbindungen zu einer kohärenten sozialen Realität (Trennung) und/oder einem physischen Raum (Zerfall) zurückzuführen. Dieses konzeptuelle Austarieren ermöglicht es dem Anomiebegriff, einen tiefer gehenden Dialog mit einem breiten Spektrum anderer Phänomene einzugehen, die in Verbindung zu dem schmerzlichen Verlust der so wichtigen sozialen Beziehungen stehen oder zu der Motivation diesem sozialen Leiden zu entgehen, sich selbst zu schaden oder unsoziale und manchmal sogar pro-soziale Verhaltensweisen anzunehmen.

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