Normlessness, Anomie, and the Emotions

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Abstract

In Suicide, Durkheim described two qualitatively different experiences of normative anomie, each with a distinct affective basis: an intentional, if not ruthless, disdain for society's normative order; and an unintentional disregard for, or confusion about, norms or rules of conduct. We generalize Durkheim's classification of the socioaffective aspects of anomic suicide, and present two theoretical models of normlessness-anomie and the emotions. These models posit that intentional anomie involves the primary emotions anger, disgust, and joy-happiness; these emotions can combine to form the secondary emotions contempt, pride, and derisiveness. Unintentional, passive anomie rather involves the emotions surprise, fear, and sadness; these can combine to form the secondary emotions disappointment, shame, and alarm. We additionally hypothesize that each kind of anomie has distinct potential behavioral consequences: intentional anomie can result in immorality, shamelessness, acquisitiveness, and premeditated homicidality; unintentional anomie, in depression, confusion, uncertainty, unpremeditated homicidality, and suicidality.

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