Academic journal article Asian Social Science

The Effect of Socioeconomic Status and Anomie on Illegal Behavior

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

The Effect of Socioeconomic Status and Anomie on Illegal Behavior

Article excerpt


The purpose of the current study is to investigate the relationships between socioeconomic status (SES), feeling of anomie, and law-breaking behavior or illegality. A sample of 480 students has been randomly selected from Shahid Chamran University of Ahvaz in Iran. The results revealed that SES had significant negative correlation with anomie and non-significant correlation with illegality. Anomie had positive correlation with illegal behavior and the fetishism of money dimension had the greatest effect on illegality. The result is discussed with regard to the socio-cultural sphere of Iran as well as with regard to the previous anomie theories including Merton, and Messner and Rosenfeld theories.

Keywords: socioeconomic status, anomie, illegal behavior, Iran

1. Introduction

Iran is a developing country, and the developing countries are essentially in transition from a traditional society to a modern one and are facing economical, social, and cultural crises. The transition from tradition to modernity, according to a Durkheimian perspective, will lead to an anomic (normlessness and deregulation) status. In this respect, the transition from a former social state to the new one, as it is associated with a weakness in the collective conscience, leads to a weakness in the function of social control over human behavior. Durkheim states that "at the very moment when traditional rules have lost their authority, the richer prize offered these appetites stimulates them and makes them more exigent and impatient of control" (Durkheim, 1951, p. 214).

In the case of Iran, there have been major changes and transformations occurring in the social structure over the last 30 years such as revolution (1979), eight years war (22 September 1980 to 20 August 1988), rapid growth of population (roughly 30 million at 1979- about 70 million at 2009), major structural changes, international sanctions and so on. These changes have many socio-political consequences for Iranian society and drive the society to an anomic situation, and as Durkheim asserted, vast rapid changes can put a society in an anomic condition.

Iranian society has always been involved with the problem of lawbreaking and this phenomenon has been experienced within anomic conditions. Many also believed that anomie is one of the most serious problems of the Iranian community (e.g. Heydari, Teymoori, Nasiri & Haghish, 2012; Heydari, Teymoori, Nasiri, in press; Heydari, 1389/2010; Kalantari, Rabani & Sedaghat, 1384/2005; Rafipoor, 1378/1999; Rezaei, 2005, Rezaei & Ebadollahi, 2006). Since anomie has very bad societal consequences, it is important to investigate what are influential factors on anomie and what are the consequences of it. Thus, we would like to explore how socioeconomic status of individuals, specifically the individuals perception of their social class, influences anomie and how both anomie and subjective socioeconomic status influence the tendency to illegal behavior.

1.1 Anomie and Illegal Behavior

According to Durkheim and Merton's anomie theories, anomie can lead to illegality. Durkheim believed that in an anomic society, the regulation of rules and norms are broken or lost their functionality during rapid changes of the society. In fact, anomie weakens the controlling function of the society. In such a society, individuals' demands are infinite, compliance to the rules hardly takes place, and some replaced behaviors like crime and distortions would be inevitable.

The relation between anomie and illegal behaviors is emphasized by Merton (1938, 1968), who has focused on the gap between the cultural goals and institutionalized means which such a gap would lead the society to anomie. When the individual fails to achieve his/her goals by legitimate means, s/he legitimizes using illegal means to get these culturally prescribed goals, and this issue engenders the grounds for the appearance of deviance. …

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