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Types of Deviant Paths

The four deviant responses represent reactions to the strain people feel between the goals they want and their access to the institutionalized means to reach them.

Society set forth goals for the individuals to aim at and also laydown means to achieve them. When a person accepts both goals and means the result is conformity. Sometimes a person may accept the goal but not the means. He may innovate or create his own means for achieving the goals and in this sense he becomes a deviant. Innovators are people who accept the goals of society but use illegitimate means to try to reach them.

Sometimes a person gives up important social values yet does lip service to them by carefully observing related norms of behavior. People who become discouraged and give up on achieving cultural goals take the second deviant path. Yet they still cling to conventional rules of conduct. Merton called this response ritualism.

People who choose the third deviant path, retreatism, reject both the cultural goals and the institutionalized means of achieving them. Some people stop pursuing success and retreat into alcohol or drugs. According to Merton in this category fall some of the adaptive activities of psychotics, autists, pariahs, outcastes, vagrants, vagabonds, tramps, chronic drunkards and drug addicts. Such people receive strong disapproval because they care little of the values most people live by.

The final type of deviant response is rebellion. Convinced that their society is corrupt, rebels reject both society's goals and its institutionalized means. Revolutionaries are the most committed type of rebels. Rebellion is produced by alienation from both values and norms. Rebel feels that he is superior to those of conventional society. He seeks some reconstruction, some change in the existing order.