Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Arts and Humanities

First Supervisor

Ann-Claire Larsen

Second Supervisor

Margaret Giles


The fundamental social structures of Australia and the Western world in the modern era differ greatly from those of fin de siècle France and the post-Depression industrialised West; yet, similar individual human responses to stressors remain. The sociological insights of Émile Durkheim and Robert Merton presented in their theories of Anomie and Strain provide a guide to understanding this. The present research considered the confluence of pressures that flowed from the changes to social structures in Australia after the attacks of September 11th, 2001, in an environment in which people felt increasingly unsettled and insecure. It positioned the changes within the global context of a broad range of social and structural developments in the Western world. This thesis argues that one of the responses to upheavals and disorder is increased levels of punitiveness, one of the reactions described by the Strain theory that extended our understanding of the behavioural responses of people living in a state of Anomie. Starting in January 2001, a study of the attitudes of the Australian population to crime and punishment is used as evidence for this contention. The attitudes are discoverable through the records of the print media and the Legislatures from two periods a decade apart, 2001 and 2011, and across two Australian jurisdictions, Western Australia and Victoria. The analysis of these records identified a complex interconnection of three equally powerful elements: the media, the Legislature and the public. From this, the model of the Triangle of Power was developed to illustrate how each element reflects both the community mood and incites it. As postulated, the results of the analysis of both sets of data verified an increase in punitiveness that confirmed the existence of Anomie in the early twenty-first century which was revealed through.