Anomie literally means “normlessness.” It is the term in sociology that refers to a decline in the normative structures of society, leaving individuals with fewer limits and guidelines for behavior. The French sociologist Émile Durkheim is credited for this concept in sociology. Durkheim’s use of the concept is presented here, followed by a few remarks about the concept’s development and modification in later sociological work. Its relevance for religion is seen in Durkheim’s concern that religion, in the transformation from more traditional to modern societies, had lost its power to offer individuals the norms for behavior they need to feel secure and content.

Durkheim argued that, unlike other species, human desire has no inherent limit. Human beings need external regulation to limit desire and guide behavior. ...

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