Understanding the devaluation of vulnerable groups: A novel application of Institutional Anomie Theory

Soc Sci Res. 2015 Jul;52:408-21. doi: 10.1016/j.ssresearch.2015.03.001. Epub 2015 Mar 16.


Prejudices legitimize the discrimination against groups by declaring them to be of unequal, especially of less, worth. This legitimizing power is highly relevant in social conflicts of modern societies that are governed by market-oriented value systems. However, prejudice research has yet to be linked to sociological discourses on the marketization of society. We argue that Institutional Anomie Theory (IAT), a theory originally developed to explain crime rates, offers a fruitful macro-sociological framework for a better understanding of micro-social prejudices that emerge along with processes of marketization. Extending IAT to explain prejudices in a German study based on survey data offers a first attempt to underpin our theoretical hypotheses with empirical data. Although the results need to be interpreted with due caution, they suggest that the extended IAT model can be usefully applied to explain how a marketized mentality is related to different forms of institutional integration, and how it is conducive to specific prejudices that emerge in market-dominated societies against purported economically burdening social groups.

Keywords: Institutional anomie; Marketization; Prejudice; Social institutions.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anomie*
  • Attitude*
  • Crime
  • Emigrants and Immigrants*
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Homeless Persons*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prejudice*
  • Social Discrimination*
  • Social Values
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Thinking
  • Unemployment*
  • Vulnerable Populations
  • Young Adult