Unequal societies can be violent places. This is especially true when people aspire to things that are likely to remain outside their reach. In one of the classic articles of sociology, published almost 70 years ago, Robert Merton used the concept of anomie to describe a society that promised much to everyone but where many people’s desires were inevitably frustrated. Thwarted ambition led to discontent. This was the vicious undertow of the American Dream.
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