anomie, a social condition characterized by instability, the breakdown of social norms, institutional disorganization, and a divorce between socially valid goals and available means for achieving them. Introduced into sociology by Emile Durkheim in his study Suicide (1897), anomie also refers to the psychological condition—of rootlessness, futility, anxiety, and amorality—afflicting individuals who live under such conditions. The importance of anomie as a cause of deviant behavior received further elaboration by Robert K. Merton.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.