Institutional Anomie Theory: A Macro-sociological Explanation of Crime

  • Steven F. Messner
  • Richard Rosenfeld
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)

Criminologists have formulated a wide range of explanations for the causes of crime, as reflected in several chapters of this volume. One useful means for classifying these explanations is according to their primary level of analysis. Micro-level theories direct attention to characteristics of individuals (e.g., biological, psychological, and social psychological traits) or their immediate social context (e.g., family and peer influences) to explain individual differences in criminal offending. Macro-level theories, in contrast, explain the variation in ratesof crime across population “aggregates.” The nature of these aggregates varies in different theories. For example, social disorganization theories focus attention on features of relatively small-scale aggregates – the collection of people who live in the same neighborhood. The core insight of these theories is that variation in levels of crime reflects the degree of informal social control that residents are able to exercise over the geographic territory that comprises their neighborhood.


Crime Rate Cultural Orientation Homicide Rate World Value Survey Social Disorganization Theory 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven F. Messner
    • 1
  • Richard Rosenfeld
    • 2
  1. 1.University at Albany, SUNYAlbanyUSA
  2. 2.Department of Criminology and Criminal JusticeUniversity of Missouri-St. LouisSt. LouisUSA

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