Opportunity structure 

A basic definition of an opportunity structure is that is a framework of rules people are encouraged to follow in order to achieve what their culture considers to be success (which can, of course, take different forms in different cultures).

In our society, for example, a legitimate (that is, socially-approved) opportunity structure people are encouraged to follow in order to achieve the things that our culture associates with "success" (money, status symbols, power and so forth) might be working hard to achieve educational qualifications follows by working hard to achieve success in the workplace.

In terms of this particular theory, the idea is that not everyone can achieve "success" by following legitimate opportunity structures (while still being socialised to want "success") means that people turn to different (illegitimate) forms of opportunity structure.

Once again, this is a theory that builds on Merton's concept of anomie (the idea that societies set their members certain culturally-desirable "ends" - or goals - and also provide some - legitimate - means for people to achieve them).

Display Pathway