Anomie - Definition and Explanation - The Oxford Review - OR Briefings

Anomie – Definition and Explanation

Understanding Anomie in the Context of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Within the realm of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), one concept deserving of attention is “Anomie.” Originating from sociology, Anomie denotes a state of societal normlessness or instability. 


Anomie, coined by French sociologist Émile Durkheim in the late 19th century, represents a breakdown of social norms, values, and expectations within a society. It occurs when individuals feel disconnected or alienated from societal norms, resulting in feelings of aimlessness, disorientation, and even moral confusion.

Causes of Anomie:

Anomie can arise due to various factors, including rapid societal changes, economic disparities, and cultural shifts. For instance, globalization, technological advancements, and demographic changes can disrupt traditional social structures, leading to a sense of disarray and uncertainty among individuals.

Effects of Anomie:

The effects of Anomie can be profound, impacting both individuals and communities. On an individual level, it may manifest as feelings of anxiety, disillusionment, and existential crisis. In extreme cases, it can contribute to antisocial behaviour, substance abuse, and mental health issues. At a societal level, Anomie can lead to increased crime rates, social unrest, and a breakdown of social cohesion.

Relevance of Anomie in DEI:

In the context of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Anomie highlights the importance of fostering a sense of belonging and social cohesion within diverse communities. When individuals from marginalised or underrepresented groups feel excluded or marginalised, it can exacerbate feelings of Anomie, further widening societal divides. Therefore, promoting inclusivity, equity, and respect for diversity is crucial in mitigating the risk of Anomie and building a more cohesive society.


Consider a workplace where diversity initiatives focus solely on superficial representation without addressing systemic inequalities or fostering a culture of inclusion. Employees from marginalised backgrounds may experience feelings of Anomie, as they perceive a disconnect between organisational values and lived experiences. This can lead to decreased morale, productivity, and overall well-being within the workforce.


In conclusion, Anomie represents a significant challenge in the DEI landscape, emphasising the need for proactive measures to promote social cohesion, equity, and inclusion. By addressing the root causes of Anomie and nurturing a sense of belonging among all individuals, we can create a more harmonious and equitable society for everyone.


Orru, M. (2024). Anomie: History and meanings. Taylor & Francis.

Merton, R. K. (2017). Social structure and anomie. In Gangs (pp. 3-13). Routledge.

Bernburg, J. G. (2002). Anomie, social change and crime. A theoretical examination of institutional‐anomie theory. British Journal of Criminology42(4), 729-742.

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