Social Indicators Research

, Volume 76, Issue 3, pp 467-498

First online:

Social Anomie and Racial Segregation in South Africa

  • Denis HuschkaAffiliated withInstitute for Sociology, German Institute for Economic Research Berlin (DIW/SOEP) & Free University of Berlin Email author 
  • , Steffen MauAffiliated withGraduate School of the Social Sciences, University of Bremen

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The concept of anomie is one of the classics of sociological theory. Developed by scholars such as Emile Durkheim and Robert K. Merton, the concept refers to the absence of clear social norms and values and to a lack of sense of social regulation. However, whereas Merton focused on features of relative deprivation that cause anomie, Durkheim was primarily interested in the link between rapid social change and social anomie. According to the latter, normative regulation is threatened with being undermined and people are likely to lack the social and psychological means for adjustment in times of rapid social change. Drawing on survey data from the South African General Household Survey polled in 2002, the article examines the ethnical differences in levels of social anomie in the South African society. In order to do so, we, first, place the South African levels of anomie into comparative context. In a second step, we look at the race specific levels of anomie. Third, we investigate whether the differences in anomie between the races are related to the still existing socio-economic inequalities or whether race can be regarded as an independent factor that impacts on anomie. Finally we scrutinize to what extent socio-economic factors account for different levels of anomie within the races.


anomie South Africa racial segregation transformation Quality of life