ANOMIA also ANOMIE or ANOMY (Greek: ’ανομια [anomia], from ’α- not, νομος [nomos]—law)—absence of law, a state of lawlessness, the denial of law or right, lawlessness; a term used in philosophy, and especially in contemporary sociology in a narrower or broader sense depening whether it refers to a complete (absolute, unconditional) absence of a legal system or norms, or the absence of an appropriate rule for conduct in accordance with a given situation.

IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF LAW AND POLITICAL SCIENCE, anomia is the state of the absence of law, the negation of law in the sense of lex. Anomia in the sense of the lack of a positive law promulgated by the authority of the state (lex) occurs in conceptions that accept the existence of a pre-social and pre-political state of nature as a historical fact or as a mere hypothesis. For example, for T. Hobbes, man’s natural state on account of his selfishness is an asocial state in which, among other things, as a result of insecurity it is necessary to forge a social contract by power of which it changes into a social state. In the course of the contract people relinquish many natural rights and freedoms to a sovereign entitled to make laws. The anarchic state of nature before the social contract concerning political authority and law is a state of war of all against all. That anarchic state results from the realization of individual natural rights understood as unlimited freedom to act or not act (the right to preserve one’s life, the right to possess things, etc.). In the state of nature, on account of the absence of any authority or order of positive law, there are also no moral norms of conduct (no distinction between good and evil, or just and unjust), for we cannot derive moral norms from nature. Moral norms appear only with the creation of the state, the establishment of rules of positive law, and the establishment of legal institutions. Anomia may also be a lack of state institutions (anarchy) in a situation where the law is identified with the state; anomia occurs in positivistic statism (R. Carré de Malberg) according to which there are no legal rules apart from those promulgated or approved by the state. The state and the law are inseparable realities. Law is always in fact something of the state, and the state is completely sovereign in relation to the law it creates. There is no law or right prior or superior to that established by the state. The self-limitation of state power is an effect of the will of the state (e.g., when it grants the citizens certain liberties), and it is the source and sign of the state’s power. Positivistic statism separates law from morality (in view of their different kinds of sanctions), from theology, etc.. The domain of law was made autonomous by strictly defining the object; the science of law is at the same time the science of the state.

IN ETHICS anomia appears as a term describing a stable moral state (J. M. Guyau); the need for any internal or external law is denied (the denial of the Kantian moral imperative), and it is said that man may live without rights, duties, or moral sanctions (moral anomism). The essence of human nature and the fundamental motive of human conduct is the drive to preserve one’s life, to strengthen it, and to develop it; life, which by nature is inclined to preserve, strengthen, and propagate itself, is the cause of human action at the conscious and instinctive level, and it unites the individual and social aspect of the human being. Scientific ethics should be concerned with how man may achieve the greatest “intensity” and “overflowing” of life, and it should show the sources necessary for strengthening and empowering life.

IN THE SOCIAL SCIENCES anomia initially meant the absence of norms regulating economic life. This was followed by another understanding of anomia as the feeling of the lack of a norm that would lead feeble and constantly suffering man to self-mastery that would let him achieve psychological equilibrium; anomia was understood as a state in which the norms, relations, and bonds that focus the social collective are loosened; a state of disregard for norms; as divergence and variety in systems of values (E. Durkheim). Anomia is also used to describe a situation where the legal system in a society does not appear as the realization of the hierarchy of values but as a means whose validity is dictated only by how effective it is in achieving its end (F. Alberoni). The term anomia is also used to describe a situation where disregard for the actual social system is based on the conviction that social norms have lost their value and are no longer binding; thus anomia does not mean the absence of norms or that we cannot know or understand norms, but only an ambivalent attitude toward them; anomia may lead to the appearance of criminal groups that live outside the system of law generally accepted in a society (R. K. Merton).

IN PSYCHOLOGY anomia is a state in which a significant number of individuals are in large measure deprived of any connection or unity with the stable institutional system that is necessary for them to find stability and for the smooth functioning of the social system (T. Parsons).

IN PEDAGOGY AND DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY the term anomia is also used to describe the first phase in the development of the human individual. According to S. Hessen it is the lack of a feeling of duty and at the same time the absence of a consciously accepted goal or law as a rule that defines action, a preconscious and pre-abstractive state in the early stage of life. According to Hessen a man is born as an anomous being, a state that last to the pre-school age, and after the child beings school he enters the phase of heteronomy (obedience to all the norms the school imposes), and he aims at the phase of autonomy in which he subordinates himself to a law he imposes upon himself as the acting subject.

T. Hobbes, Leviathan Lo 1651, Ox 1998 (Leviatan, Kr 1954); J. M. Guyau, Esquisse d’une morale sans obligation ni sanction, P 1885, 19036 (Zarys moralności bes powinności i sankcji Wwa 1910, 1960); A. Fouilleé, La morale, l’art et la religion d’après Guyau, P 1889, 19097 (Moralność, sztuka i religia podług M. Guyau, Wwa 1894); E. Durkheim, De la division du travail social, P 1893, 19678; J. Pawelski, Guyau a etyka przyszłości [Guyau and the ethics of the future], Przegląd Powszechny [Universal Review) 50 (1894), 93–111, 352–368; W. Jabłonowski, Moralność, sztuka imetafizyka według Guyau [Morality, art and metaphysics according to Guyau], Ateneum 1 (1895), 321–339; E. Durkheim, Le suicide, étude de sociologie, P 1897, 19672; J. Bączek, Anomia Jana M. Guyau [The anomia of John M. Guyau], Włocławek 1914²; R. Carré de Malberg, Contribution à la théorie générale de l’état, spécialement d’après les données fournies par la droit contitutionnel français, I–II, P 1920‐1922; idem, La loi, expression de la volonté générale. Étude sur le concept de la loi dans Constitution de 1875, P 1931; R. K. Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure, Glencoe 1949, NY 1964²; F. Alberoni, Contributo alla studio dell’ integrazione sociale dell’immigrato, Mi 1960; W. Jacher, Teoria więzi społecznej w socjologii Emila Durkheima [Theory of the social bond in Emil Durkheim’s sociology], Lb 1973; S. Hessen, Podstawy pedagogiki [Foundations of pedagogy], Wwa 1997; W. Okoń, Autonomia człowieka jako cel i szansa edukacyjna [Man’s autonomy as an end an educational opportunity], Edukacja 59 (1997), 5–25.

Katarzyna Stępień

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