Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- For the band, see Anomie (band)
Anomie, in contemporary English means the absence of any kind of rule, law, principle or order.
The word comes from Greek a-: "without", and nomos: "law". This term was used by the Greeks to define anything or anyone who was against the rules or a condition where the present laws were not applied (illegitimacy, unlawfulness). The contemporary English understanding of the word Anomie differs from how the term was originally defined and used by Greeks and tends to become a synonym of the word Αναρχία (see Anarchy). In Greek there is a difference between the word "nomos" (νόμος)(law), and the word "arché" (Αρχή)(starting rule, axiom, principle). For example, majority rule is an "arché" and not a "nomos".
Anomie as individual disorder
The nineteenth century French pioneer sociologist Emile Durkheim used this word in his book outlining the causes of suicide, to describe a condition or malaise in individuals, characterized by an absence or diminution of standards or values, and an associated feeling of alienation and purposelessness. Anomie is remarkably common when the surrounding society has undergone significant changes in 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 the practice of everyday life.
Anomie as social disorder
The word, spelled anomy or also anomie, has also been used to apply to societies or groups of people within a society, who suffer from chaos due to lack of commonly recognized explicit or implicit rules of good conduct, or worse, to the reign of rules promoting isolation or even predation rather than cooperation (consider the Ik tribe).
Friedrich Hayek notably uses the word anomy with this meaning.
Anomy as social disorder is not to be confused with anarchy. The word 'anarchy' denotes lack of rulers, hierarchy, command, whereas 'anomy' denotes lack of rules, structure and organization. Many opponents of anarchism claim that anarchy necessarily leads to anomy; however, many anarchists will argue that hierarchical command actually creates chaos, rather than order (e.g., see the Law of Eristic Escalation).
As an older variant, the Webster 1913 reports use of the word anomy as meaning "disregard or violation of the law".
Durkeheim Theory of Anomie to refer to the weakening of the normative order in society.
In recent history there have been numerous instances of collapse of state authority, sometimes prompted by war but also often due to implosion of the state. In some cases, state collapse is followed by lawlessness, rioting, looting, and, if disarray lasts long enough, eventually warlordism. Such societies are often described as anarchy, but they are not anarchies in the sense of the philosophy of anarchism; they lack the sort of substitute social structures which anarchists theorize would replace the state.
- "Anomie" discussed at the Emile Durkheim Archive.
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