R.K Merton full name Robert King Merton was an American sociologist took birth on July of 4th, 1910 and passed away on February 23rd, 2003. His majority of life was spent as a professor at Columbia University. He was awarded many awards regarding the contribution he made in the field of sociology of science. He formulated many terms which are till this date in use and have gained much popularity such as role model, role strain or self-fulfilling prophecy and much more.
R.K Merton also did many works and produced theories some of them are discussed below:
Theories of the Middle Range:
In this theory, he talks about sociological theories must be made. He says that sociological theories must look after all the empirical facts and figures and on that basis, one should do his or her study. He also brought competition to Parsonian sociology. Merton always said that sociological theories must not derive from doubts and incomplete information to come on conclusion one must arrange all the facts and combine them and then provide the conclusion.
Later Merton saw events happening in America like corruption, conflicts and negative response of people on social norms. So further he decided to study these topics and as a feedback to mega theories by using simple methodology but he could not put these issues to the empirical possibilities rather he said these theories are an issue of speculation. He reached to the point were he believed issues and theories on such topics are middle-range theories.
Merton firmly believed that natural science should not be used in the field of sociology. He also believed using these theories would grow in a unified manner and it is a work of a natural scientist which is not suitable for the sociological field. In sociology the subject matters keep changing with time, for instance, the role of the family it keeps on changing with time and places that is why we cannot apply natural science methodology. He truly believed in sociological research one does not require natural science’s help. Merton believes to solve any problem one must look after the essence of the reality of the problem. First, identify the problem that is needed to be solved. If anyone wants to do the sociological research he or she must go into the micro level and study the issue to understand each branch of the problem occurring in social outlook. That is why Merton took those topics which were somehow related to scientific investigation.
Middle range theories must look into all the empirical facts and do proper sociological research. Here everything revolves around facts and therefore said to be believed easily as it is in the form of facts. Theories of middle range are concise, concentrated and complete and are universally accepted. It has the capability to talk about those issues which are complex in nature in a very simple and understandable manner. It explains every topic without creating any doubt in people’s mind and therefore said to be understandable and simple in nature. It acts as a guide to the sociological research.
Clarifying functional research:
Merton says that anything that is related to the central orientation of functionalism must be later studied by looking after its consequences on different structures. Merton studies society by studying the cultural system of society and structures and decides on how well they are integrated or not. Every social system requires different function in society. So, therefore, Merton believed that concentrating on one social institution would be harmful and create an unjust society and should not give all the emphasis on one social institution. Also, he says that the integral part of any social institution is its values. Every social institution needs some values which help them perform there work smoothly.
Merton believes that every society needs some cultural beliefs and practices and these are important for both society and individuals. Every structure present in society must have the feeling of integration and unification.
Dysfunctions: it consists of three main issues of functionalism
Functional unity of society: here he talks about the harmony and unity of society. He says that not all societies are well unified and have some difficulties. Everyone does not enjoy same opportunities which lead to disturbed society. There is no society which does not have its issues. Merton says that civil war is an example of not well-integrated society.
Universal functionalism: in this, he discusses that not all norms and ideals are an advantage for all. He says that there are certain things present in society which are advantageous to one and disadvantageous to other. That is why he says what is accepted by one may not be accepted by others. He says poverty may be good for rich people as they will get the change to enjoy the benefits and maintain their wealth throughout their lives.
Indispensability: he says that is it really that each society performs one defined function? Merton firmly believed that there are some institutions which can perform same functions as other institutions and does not have one specific function.
Unanticipated consequences and Manifest and Latent function:
When we talk about functions we know what are our intended consequences and probably not aware of our unintended consequences. So that is why most if the sociologist tries to study these unintended consequences. For instance many times we plan and take action on it but there might be some consequences we have to face or we can say that plan does not go according to our plan.
the manifest function here people are aware or expecting these consequences and in latent function, one is not sure or aware of the consequences he or she might be facing. Merton pays much attention to latent functions to understand the society.
Functional alternatives: Merton talks about functionalist and society. He says that many functionalists believe that every society has its own functions to be going on in society. He always says that it is not completely right to say that each institution has one specific function rather other institutions can also perform certain functions of other institution. So he says functional alternatives are possible by each institution and one institution can perform different functions.
Theory of deviance:
Merton discusses three aspects and relationship between culture, structure, and anomie.
He says that culture is necessary for guiding one’s behavior as it acts as values for society and groups. Social structure showcases the social relationship of people in society and how they live. Anomie means when there is no correspondence between people and norms it is known as the state of normlessness.
Anomie and Merton’s structural-functional idea of deviance:
He tries to show that there were differences occurring in cultural aspirations and legal way to achieve these goals. This theory is mostly used in the case of criminology which leads to much on deviance.
Conformity means when the goals in society are achieved with the means which are accepted by all. Innovation means when one achieves goals through the means which are not acceptable by society. Ritualism is when the means of goals are accepted but goals are penalized. Retreatism is when both the goals and means are not accepted by society. Rebellion, therefore, comes as a rejection of the goals and means as well as there alternatives are also rejected. Merton believes in case of innovation and ritualism anomie is pure and in both, we can see differences or intervals between means and goals.
Merton was greatly influenced by Talcott Parsons and Pitirim Sorokin. Much of his topics were grasped from Parsons Interest. Merton is said to be one the most important sociologist who have contributed in modern days sociology and is also said to be the founder of it.