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The Strain Theory in the Mobb Deep’s Song “Survival of the Fittest”

Robert Merton’s Strain Theory is a sociological and criminological theory that states that social structures may force people to commit a crime. There are five modes of adapting to strain that an individual can pursue: conformity, ritualism, innovation, retreatism, and rebellion, the last three of which are associated with criminal behavior. The song “Survival of the Fittest” provides an illustration of this theory by describing the life of a man who chooses a path of violence to fight against the pressure of society.

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The first type of adaptation is conformity, which involves pursuing an individual’s goals through approved means. The song denies this approach by claiming that for a black man in white society, only a path of violence is acceptable, and there is no way one can achieve their goals through compliance. The second type of adaptation is ritualism, which refers to the common practice of going through one’s daily life without accepting the goals or values that align with those practices. In a hostile world where the protagonist lives, he has to comply with the rules even through rejection: “New York got a nigga depressed / So I wear a slug-proof underneath my Guess” (Mobb Deep, 1995). Conformity and ritualism are both based on the acceptance of society’s institutionalized means and have no connection with criminal behavior.

The third type of adaptation is innovation, which is when an individual uses socially inappropriate or unconventional means to achieve their goals. The fourth type is retreatism, which means rejecting both the conventional goals and the means of achieving them. In the song, the protagonist is engaged in violence and drug dealing as both a form of protest and defense and a means of achieving the goals of his social group. He claims, “No matter how much loot I get / I’m stayin’ in the projects forever” (Mobb Deep, 1995). Rebellion is the fifth type of adaptation that means the complete rejection of society’s goals and norms and the development of one’s way of life. In the song, rebellion is suggested as the only possible answer to the pressure and the way to live.

Reference

Mobb Deep. (1995). Survival of the fittest [Song]. On The Infamous [Album]. Loud Records.

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StudyCorgi. "The Strain Theory in the Mobb Deep’s Song “Survival of the Fittest”." February 19, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/the-strain-theory-in-the-mobb-deeps-song-survival-of-the-fittest/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "The Strain Theory in the Mobb Deep’s Song “Survival of the Fittest”." February 19, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/the-strain-theory-in-the-mobb-deeps-song-survival-of-the-fittest/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'The Strain Theory in the Mobb Deep’s Song “Survival of the Fittest”'. 19 February.

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