Merton’s theory of socialization and the behavior of whistleblowers
Merton’s theory of socialization is concerned with the issue of deviance in society. According to Merton, the failure of social structure is wrongly blamed for people’s autocratic biological initiatives that are not properly managed by social control (672). Merton’s theory involves the notion of anomie and its meaning of confusion created by the conflict of social norms (682). The sociologist identifies five modes of adaptation to societal norms: conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism, and rebellion (Merton 676). The differences between these modes are based on the acceptance or rejection of cultural goals and institutionalized means (Merton 676). According to the author, when a person cannot achieve the desired cultural aims, he or she turns to deviant social behavior.
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The ideology proposed by Merton can be employed while explaining the cases of whistleblowers such as Julian Assange from WikiLeaks or business disruptors such as Airbnb. Both these cases can be referred to as instances of innovation according to Merton’s theory. Merton defines innovation as the agreement with the set cultural goals and rejection of how these goals are achieved (676). Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, had a goal of making some secret information available for the masses. However, at the same time, he did not care much about the fact that how he obtained and shared the data were not legal (Domscheit-Berg and Klopp xii-xiv). In the case of Airbnb, a pattern of conduct similar to WikiLeaks’ one may be noted. The company has the aim of providing people with reasonable prices on rented tourist accommodations. Still, Airbnb’s disruptive theory involving illegal mechanisms makes it close to Merton’s innovation mode (Guttentag 1192)
Wrongs view of socialization and the behavior of whistleblowers
Dennis Wrong coined the phrase “overspecialization” in an attempt to criticize the common beliefs of sociologists (183). According to Wrong, social theory should be regarded as several answers to questions inquired about social reality (183). To express his disapproval of the sociologists’ views, the scholar says that they tend to define sociological theory as the formation of formal knowledge that conforms to the logical requirements of scientific views established by methodologists and philosophers (Wrong 183). Wrong identifies two answers to the Hobbesian question of social order (185). The first option is the internationalization of social norms (Wrong 185). The second one is associated with the fact that people are fundamentally motivated by the wish to create a good image by gaining approval of the others (Wrong 185). Wrong considers the sociologists’ explanation of internationalization too much positive and utopistic. He says that sociologists neglect the fact that people may have some personal conflicts during the process of internationalization (Wrong 187).
Wrong’s views, the behavior of whistleblowers can be explained by their unwillingness to conform to the societal norms. People like Julian Assange do what they wish without harmonizing with the rest of society. Out of Merton’s categories, Wrong would find conformity the most oversocialized because those who do not their own opinion and merely do what society dictates to them are excessively socialized (Wrong 187). The best-socialized category among those defined by Merton, according to Wrong, is rebellion (Merton 676; Wrong 187). People who choose this behavior do not find it necessary to follow the majority’s directions and do what they consider best for themselves.
Domscheit-Berg, Daniel, and Tina Klopp. Inside WikiLeaks: My Time with Julian Assange and the World’s Most Dangerous Website. Random House, 2011.
Guttentag, Daniel. “Airbnb: Disruptive Innovation and the Rise of an Informal Tourism Accommodation Sector.” Current Issues in Tourism, vol. 18, no. 12, pp. 1192-1217.
Merton, Robert K. “Social Structure and Anomie.” American Sociological Review, vol. 3, no. 5, 1938, pp. 672-682.
Wrong, Dennis H. “The Oversocialized Conception on Men in Modern Sociology.” American Sociological Review, vol. 26, no. 2, 1961, pp. 183-193.