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Anomie, (from the Greek an-: absence of, and nomos: name, law, order, structure), is a term that means a disorder due to the absence of rules.

Anomie as individual disorder

The nineteenth century pioneer French sociologist Emile Durkheim used this word in his book outlining the causes of suicide, to describes a condition or malaise in individuals, characterized by an absence or diminution of standards or values, and an associated feeling of alienation and purposelessness. Anomie is remarkably common when the surrounding society has undergone significant changes in economic fortunes, whether for good or for worse, and more generally when there is a significant discrepancy between the ideological theories and values commonly professed and the practice of everyday life.

Anomie as social disorder

The word, spelled anomy or also anomie, has also been used to apply to societies or groups of people within a society, who suffer from chaos due to lack of commonly recognized explict or implicit rules of good conduct, or worse, to the reign of rules promoting isolation or even predation rather than cooperation (consider the Ik[?] tribe).

Friedrich Hayek notably uses the word anomy with this meaning.

Anomy as social disorder is not to be confused with anarchy, though many opponents to anarchism claim that anarchy necessarily leads to anomy. Indeed, anarchy denotes lack of rulers, hierarchy, command, whereas anomy denotes lack of rules, structure, organization. Many anarchists will argue that hierarchical command actually creates chaos, rather than order (see the Law of Eristic Escalation).

As an older variant, the Webster 1913[?] reports use of the word anomy as meaning "disregard or violation of the law".

For the band of the same name, see Anomie (band).

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