Criminology Theorist

Theorist Essay
                  ROBERT K. MERTON

One could easily make the statement that Robert K. Merton was destined to become a
sociologist.   Almost from the beginning of his academic career Merton was interested in
sociology and society’s effect on individuals.   However, it could be argued that Merton’s
most influential work was his theory of anomie.   Anomie is a well-known theory within the
discipline of criminology.   Merton first published the theory in 1938 in an article titled
“Social Structure and Anomie” (Hunt,1961).   It was this work that catapulted Merton
into the sociological spotlight in which he has always remained.   This essay will examine
the life of one of the most influential theorists, Robert K. Merton, in the 20th
century.   It begins with a historical perspective highlighting Merton’s early days and
education, it is then followed by a summary of his original theory.

Pfohl (1984) suggests that Merton’s childhood played an important role in shaping the
direction of his future studies. Robert Merton was born in 1910 in Philadelphia to immigrant
parents (Hunt, 1961).   He lived in a slum throughout his childhood. Growing up Merton
enjoyed learning and is said to have frequented the public library.   Merton, unlike most
teenagers he grew up with, received a scholarship to Temple University.   He excelled in his
studies from the very beginning.   His early interests were in philosophy, however after an
introductory class is sociology he quickly shifted disciplines.   After receiving his
undergraduate degree he was granted a fellowship and in 1931 attended Harvard University
for graduate school (Hunt, 1961).   Merton was described as a hard worker, who often
spent his free time doing extra research and reading. (Hunt, 1961).

While at Harvard, Merton read the writings of Emile Durkheim. Durkheim was an
influential French sociologist writing in the late nineteenth century.   He...