Anomie describes a lack of social norms; "normlessness". It describes the breakdown of social bonds between an individual and their community, if under unruly scenarios possibly resulting in fragmentation of social identity and rejection of self-regulatory values. It was popularized by French sociologist Émile Durkheim in his influential book Suicide (1897). Durkheim borrowed the word from French philosopher Jean-Marie Guyau. Durkheim never uses the term normlessness; rather, he describes anomie as "a rule the lack of rule", "derangement", and "an insatiable will".
For Durkheim, anomie arises more generally from a mismatch between personal or group standards and wider social standards, or from the lack of a social ethic, which produces moral deregulation and an absence of legitimate aspirations. This is a nurtured condition:
Anomie in common parlance is thought to mean something like "at loose ends". The Oxford English Dictionary lists a range of definitions, beginning with a disregard of divine law, through the 19th and 20th century sociological terms meaning an absence of accepted social standards or values. Most sociologists associate the term with Durkheim, who used the concept to speak of the ways in which an individual's actions are matched, or integrated, with a system of social norms and practices … Durkheim also formally posited anomie as a mismatch, not simply as the absence of norms. Thus, a society with too much rigidity and little individual discretion could also produce a kind of anomie, a mismatch between individual circumstances and larger social mores. Thus, fatalistic suicide arises when a person is too rule-governed, when there is … no free horizon of expectation.—
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In 1893, Durkheim introduced the concept of anomie to describe the mismatch of collective guild labour to evolving societal needs when the guild was homogeneous in its constituency. He equated homogeneous (redundant) skills to mechanical solidarity whose inertia retarded adaptation. He contrasted this with the self-regulating behaviour of a division of labour based on differences in constituency, equated to organic solidarity, whose lack of inertia made it differentially sensitive to need changes.
Durkheim observed that these two labour forms could not co-exist. The conflict between the evolved organic division of labour and the homogeneous mechanical type was such that one could not long exist in the presence of the other: "This social type rests on principles so different from the preceding that it can develop only in proportion to the effacement of that preceding type." and "The history of these two types shows, in effect, that one has progressed only as the other has retrogressed."
When solidarity is organic, anomie is "impossible whenever solidary organs are sufficiently in contact or sufficiently prolonged. In effect, being contiguous, they are quickly warned, in each circumstance, of the need they have of one another, and, consequently, they have a lively and continuous sentiment of their mutual dependence. For the same reason that exchanges take place among them easily, they take place frequently, and in time the work of consolidation is achieved. Their sensitivity to mutual needs promotes the evolution in the division of labour "because the smallest reaction can be felt from one part to another. … They foresee and fix, in detail, the conditions of equilibrium". "Producers, being near consumers, can easily reckon the extent of the needs to be satisfied. Equilibrium is established without any trouble and production regulates itself." Durkheim contrasted the condition of anomie as being the result of mechanical solidarity:
But on the contrary, if some opaque environment is interposed, then only stimuli of certain intensity can be communicated from one organ to another. Relations being rare, are not repeated enough to be determined; each time there ensues new grouping. The lines of passage taken by the streams of movement cannot deepen because the streams themselves are too intermittent.
Contact is no longer sufficient. The producer can no longer embrace the market at a glance, nor even in thought. He can no longer see its limits, since it is, so to speak limitless. Accordingly, production becomes unbridled and unregulated.
Durkheim's use of the term anomie was about a phenomenon of industrialization—mass-regimentation that could not adapt due to its own inertia—its resistance to change, which causes disruptive cycles of collective behavior (e.g. economics) due to the necessity of a prolonged buildup of sufficient force or momentum to overcome the inertia.
Later in 1897, in his studies of suicide, Durkheim associated anomie to the influence of a lack of norms or norms that were too rigid. But such normlessness or norm-rigidity was a symptom of anomie, caused by the lack of differential adaptation that would enable norms to evolve naturally due to self-regulation, either to develop norms where none existed or to change norms that had become rigid and obsolete.
The word comes from Greek ανομία, namely the prefix a- "without", and nomos "law". The Greeks distinguished between nomos (νόμος, "law"), and arché (αρχή, "starting rule, axiom, principle"). For example, a monarch is a single ruler but he or she might still be subject to, and not exempt from, the prevailing laws, i.e. nomos. In the original city state democracy, the majority rule was an aspect of arché because it was a rule-based, customary system, which might or might not make laws, i.e. nomos. Thus, the original meaning of anomie defined anything or anyone against or outside the law, or a condition where the current laws were not applied resulting in a state of illegitimacy or lawlessness.
The contemporary English understanding of the word anomie can accept greater flexibility in the word "norm", and some have used the idea of normlessness to reflect a similar situation to the idea of anarchy. But, as used by Émile Durkheim and later theorists, anomie is a reaction against or a retreat from the regulatory social controls of society, and is a completely separate concept from anarchy, which is an absence of effective rulers or leaders.
Social disorder 
The nineteenth century French pioneer sociologist Émile Durkheim borrowed the word from French philosopher Jean-Marie Guyau and used it in his influential book Suicide (1897), outlining the social (and not individual) causes of suicide, characterized by a rapid change of the standards or values of societies (often erroneously referred to as normlessness), and an associated feeling of alienation and purposelessness. He believed that anomie is common when the surrounding society has undergone significant changes in its economic fortunes, whether for good or for worse and, more generally, when there is a significant discrepancy between the ideological theories and values commonly professed and what was actually achievable in everyday life. This is contrary to previous theories on suicide which generally maintained that suicide was precipitated by negative events in a person's life and their subsequent depression.
In Durkheim's view, traditional religions often provided the basis for the shared values which the anomic individual lacks. Furthermore, he argued that the division of labor that had been prevalent in economic life since the Industrial Revolution led individuals to pursue egoistic ends rather than seeking the good of a larger community. Robert King Merton also adopted the idea of anomie to develop Strain Theory, defining it as the discrepancy between common social goals and the legitimate means to attain those goals. In other words, an individual suffering from anomie would strive to attain the common goals of a specific society yet would not be able to reach these goals legitimately because of the structural limitations in society. As a result the individual would exhibit deviant behavior. Friedrich Hayek notably uses the word anomie with this meaning.
According to one academic survey, psychometric testing confirmed a link between anomie and academic dishonesty among university students suggesting that universities needed to foster codes of ethics among students in order to curb it. In another study anomie was seen as a "push factor" in tourism.
As an older variant, the Webster 1913 dictionary reports use of the word anomie as meaning "disregard or violation of the law" but anomie as a social disorder is not to be confused with anarchy. Proponents of anarchism claim that anarchy does not necessarily lead to anomie and that hierarchical command actually increases lawlessness. Some Anarcho-primitivists like Ted Kaczynski argue that conditions such as anomie are directly caused by complex societies, particularly industrial and post-industrial societies due to their deprivation of individual self-determination and a relatively small reference group to relate to, such as the band, clan, or tribe.
Literature, film, and theatre 
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In Albert Camus's existentialist novel The Stranger, the bored, alienated protagonist Meursault struggles to construct an individual system of values as he responds to the disappearance of the old. He exists largely in a state of anomie, as seen from the apathy evinced in the opening lines: "Aujourd’hui, maman est morte. Ou peut-être hier, je ne sais pas" ("Today mother died. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know"). When Meursault is prosecuted for shooting an Arab man during a fight, the prosecuting attorneys seem more interested in the inability or unwillingness of Meursault to cry at his mother's funeral than the murder of the Arab, because they find his lack of remorse offensive. The novel ends with Meursault recognizing the universe's indifference toward humankind. In the first half of the novel Meursault is clearly an unreflecting, unapologetic individual. Ultimately, Camus presents the world as essentially meaningless and therefore, the only way to arrive at any meaning or purpose is to make it oneself.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, whose work is often considered a philosophical precursor to existentialism, often expressed a similar concern in his novels. In The Brothers Karamazov, it is expressed more than once by different characters that in the absence of God and immortal life, everything would be lawful. That one can do as one likes, but this one cannot. The novel explores the existence of God, the nature of truth, and the importance of forgiveness through the actions of its characters. Raskolnikov, the anti-hero of Dostoyevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment, puts this philosophy into action when he kills an elderly pawnbroker and her sister, later rationalizing this act to himself with the words, "...it wasn’t a human being I killed, it was a principle!" Raskolnikov's inner conflict in the opening section of the novel results in a utilitarian-altruistic justification for the proposed crime: why not kill a wretched and "useless" old moneylender to alleviate the human misery?
The Swiss Friedrich Dürrenmatt's 1956 tragicomic play The Visit is another striking example of anomie. The town of Guellen eagerly surrenders to the temptation of modern-day fiscal freedom promised by billionairess Claire Zachanassian in exchange for the dead body of the Alfred Ill. Now the recently elected mayor-to-be, he was also the man who jilted Zachanassian (and their unborn child) several decades ago leaving her destitute. Initially reluctant, the townsfolk quickly forgo the established societal norms and basic human values, disrupting and disregarding the victim's ties to his family and community. Inevitably, the people of Guellen fall in the trap of gaudy materialism, justifying themselves as they increasingly allow themselves to become selfish; they promote normlessness. Eventually they succeed in alienating and hypocritically passing judgment on the man, to the extent where they carry out his public execution - he is lynched by his townsmen. They then abandon his body as they are too distracted in celebration of their 'rightful' blood-money - signifying that anomie continues even after they are gone.
Hermann Hesse's Der Steppenwolf also expresses a picture of anomie. The novel tells the story of a middle-aged man named Harry Haller who is beset with reflections on his being ill-suited for the world of "everybody", the regular people. In his aimless wanderings about the city he is given a book which describes the two natures of man: one "high", spiritual and "human"; while the other is "low" and animal-like. Thus, man is entangled in an irresolvable struggle, never content with either nature because he cannot see beyond this self-made construct. While Haller longs to live free from social convention, he continually lives as a bourgeois bachelor. Haller argues that the men of the Dark Ages did not suffer more than those of Classical Antiquity, and vice-versa. It is rather those who live between two times, those who do not know what to follow, that suffer the most. In this token, a man from the Dark Ages living in Classical Antiquity, or the opposite, would undergo a gulping sadness and agony.
The characters Vladimir and Estragon in Samuel Beckett's absurdist play Waiting For Godot express a sense of anomie. The play follows two consecutive days in the lives of a pair of men who divert themselves while they wait expectantly and unsuccessfully for someone named Godot to arrive. Frustrated at the long wait, they think of what to do to pass the time. Estragon suggests that they hang themselves, but since they are concerned that they might not both die, they decide to do nothing: "It's safer", explains Estragon. Another character, Lucky, describes an impersonal and callous God. Lucky next asserts that man 'wastes and pines', mourns an inhospitable earth, and claims that he [man] diminishes in a world that does not nurture him". The play illustrates an attitude toward man's experience on earth: the poignancy, oppression, camaraderie, hope, corruption, and bewilderment of human experience that can only be reconciled in the mind and art of the absurdist.
The Yugoslav film When I Am Dead and Gone (1967) is a relentless portrayal of anomie throughout the contemporary Yugoslav society, experiencing rapid industrialization and urbanization. The main character seeks to settle down in an environment where all norms are habitually broken.
See also 
- Gerber, John J. Macionis, Linda M. (2010). Sociology (7th Canadian ed. ed.). Toronto: Pearson Canada. p. 97. ISBN 978-0-13-700161-3.
- NYtimes blogs
- Durkheim, Emile (1979). Suicide. New York: THE FREE PRESS. p. 257. ISBN 0-684-83632-7.
- Mestrovic, Stjepan. Emile Durkheim and The Reformation of Sociology.
- Susan Leigh Star, Geoffrey C. Bowker, and Laura J. Neumann, "Transparency At Different Levels of Scale: Convergence between Information Artifacts and Social Worlds", Library and Information Science, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, August 1997
- The Division of Labor in Society, The MacMillan Co. 1933, Free Press edition, 1964, p. 182
- The Division of Labor in Society, The MacMillan Co. 1933, Free Press edition, 1964, p. 183
- The Division of Labor in Society, The MacMillan Co. 1933, Free Press edition, 1964, p. 368
- The Division of Labor in Society, The MacMillan Co. 1933, Free Press edition, 1964, p. 368,369
- The Division of Labor in Society, The MacMillan Co. 1933, Free Press edition, 1964, p. 370
- The effect of anomie on academic dishonesty among university students by Albert Caruana, B. Ramaseshan, Michael T. Ewing. Journal: International Journal of Educational Management Year: 2000 Volume: 14 Issue: 1 Page: 23 - 30
- Anomie, ego-enhancement and tourism by Graham M. S. Dann, Annals of Tourism Research, Volume 4, Issue 4, March–April 1977, Pages 184-194.
- Anomie, authoritarianism, and prejudice: A replication by AH Roberts, M Rokeach - American Journal of Sociology, 1956
- Brown, V., Yesterday's Deformities: A Discussion of the Role of Memory and Discourse in the Plays of Samuel Beckett, (doctoral thesis), p. 92.
- Durkheim, Émile. (1893). The Division of Labour in Society
- Durkheim, Émile. (1897). Suicide
- Realino Marra, Suicidio, diritto e anomia. Immagini della morte volontaria nella civiltà occidentale, Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane, Napoli, 1987, ISBN 209776
- Realino Marra, "Geschichte und aktuelle Problematik des Anomiebegriffs", Zeitschrift für Rechtssoziologie, XI-1, 1989, 67-80.
- Marco Orru. "The Ethics of Anomie: Jean Marie Guyau and Émile Durkheim", British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 34, No. 4 (Dec., 1983), pp. 499–518
- Riba, Jordi (1999). La Morale Anomique de Jean-Marie Guyau'. L'Harmattan. ISBN 978-2-7384-7772-9
|Look up anomie in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- "Anomie" discussed at the Émile Durkheim Archive.