In the social sciences, a condition of social instability or personal unrest resulting from a breakdown of standards and values or from a lack of purpose or ideals. The term was introduced in 1897 by Émile Durkheim, who believed that one type of suicide (anomic) resulted from the breakdown of social standards that people need and use to regulate their behavior. Robert K. Merton studied the causes of anomie in the U.S., finding it severest in persons who lack acceptable means of achieving their cultural goals. Delinquency, crime, and suicide are often reactions to anomie. See also alienation.
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