Society sets forth goals for the individuals to aim at and also lay down means to achieve them. When a person accepts both goals and means the result is generally “conformity”. Sometimes, a person may accept the goal but not the means. He may innovate or create his own means for achieving the goals and in this sense, he becomes a deviant.
If this innovated means brings positive results it poses no problem for the social order and if it brings negative results it may pose a danger to the society. Example: Some poor people and pleasure-seekers may be forced to ‘innovate’ or resort to illegitimate, “dishonest” means to get money. Such “innovators’ are problematic deviants.
Sometimes a person gives up important social values yet does lip service to them by carefully observing related norms of behaviour. They are ritualists. They abandon the pursuit of success as fruitless and yet strictly adhere to the prescribed means.
They regard rules as sacred. They tend to lower their aspirations and never expect success. Because they find themselves unable to break out of their commitment to the rules.
Ritualists are also deviants because such persons refuse to take courageous and possibly dangerous action demanded by true adherence to values. On the other hand, they take refuge in neutral but safe behaviour which looks like decent conformity.
A person stabbed to death within the sight of a number of neighbours who refuse to get themselves involved in the case. This kind of behaviour is ritualistic. It is difficult to criticise such behaviour harshly. It is also a form of deviance because norms exist or should exist to serve values. They should not eclipse values or transcend them.
The rejection of both values and norms is ‘retreatism’. It is in one way or another of ‘dropping out’ of society. The person who drops out ‘resigns’ so to speak. Those who ‘retreat’ from the society refuse to pursue wealth either by legal or illegal means.
They also refuse to lead a ‘conventional’ life. They are unable to get success ‘honestly’. They are not able to break the conventional procedure because of the strongly internalised norm. The best solution to their dilemma is to ‘drop out’ of society. Hence ‘retreatism’ is a kind of passive rejection of the goal of success and of respectable occupational activities.
According to Merton, in this category fall “some of the adaptive activities of psychotics, autists, pariahs, outcastes, vagrants, vagabonds, tramps, chronic drunkards and drug addicts”. Such people receive strong disapproval because they care little of the values most people live by.
Rebellion is another response open to those who reject both ends and means. Some people reject the prevailing order and engage in efforts to replace that order. They try to substitute new ends and means for those that exist.
They are called ‘rebels’. Robellion is produced by alienation from both values and norms. Instead of ‘retreating’ the rebel gives active support and loyalty to an incompatible set of values and norms.
He feels that they are superior to those of conventional society. He seeks some reconstruction, some change in the existing order. He may even attempt at the complete destruction of that order or struggle to replace it with another order. Rebellion may vary from small-scale to that of greater scale.
A student giving up education in the name of doing greater things is an example of small-scale rebellion. A law-abiding young man going away from society to form a criminal gang to take revenge upon some authority is an example of greater-scale rebellion. Political and religious revolutions that were initiated by one or the other individual also come under this category.