The Anomie and Strain theories present the contrary approach to examining criminal activity and its origin based on the broader cultural and structural structures that establish America’s social cohesion. Together with the Chicago school, these two fundamental paradigms are aimed at demonstrating how the American social structure, including the disagreements between its cultural prescriptions and social fabric, promotes high levels of crime. They primarily denied the earlier theories, which used to place a complete responsibility on the individuals for the crime. Most importantly, they both made a valuable contribution to the criminology study by pointing out that the social organization of existing society limits what citizens learn to become and what they might be forced to do.
In my opinion, the Chicago school better explains the cause of criminal behavior since it considers the rapid expansion and increased diversity of urban society, which enabled connecting the crime to such social shifts. I believe that strain theory constrains the criminology discussion by emphasizing equal opportunities for society. Merton’s vision of the criminal problem implied that the social structure restricts access to societal success through legitimate means, such as education, employment, and family bonds. Moreover, I agree that the theory is less likely to “apply to everybody.” Merton’s perspective indicates the one possible set of goals everyone should aspire to have, which causes a gap between people’s expectations from life and the reality that they have. As such, in Merton’s theory, there is a strong possibility that achieving those goals can be accomplished through illegitimate means involving criminal behavior.