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Featured Article: Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (July 18, 1918 - December 5, 2013) was the first President of South Africa to be elected in fully representative democratic elections. Before his presidency, he was a prominent anti-apartheid radical and leader of the African National Congress, who had spent 27 years in prison for his involvement in underground armed resistance activities and sabotage.

Through his long imprisonment, much of it spent in a cell on Robben Island, Mandela became the most widely known figure in the struggle against South African apartheid. Although the apartheid regime and those sympathetic to it considered him and the ANC to be communists and terrorists, he explained the move to embark on armed struggle as a last resort. He had been steadfastly committed to non-violence until increasing repression and violence from the state convinced him that non-violence against apartheid had achieved nothing and could not succeed. However, the reversal in policy to that of reconciliation, which Mandela pursued upon his release in 1990, facilitated a peaceful transition to fully representative democracy in South Africa.

Having received over a hundred awards over four decades, Mandela became a cultural icon of freedom and equality to many around the world. In South Africa, he was often known as Madiba, an honorary title adopted by elders of Mandela's clan. Many South Africans also refered to him reverently as mkhulu (grandfather), or as Tata ("Father"); he is often described as "the father of the nation."

In the past, as leader of the ANC during its "armed struggle," Mandela attracted condemnation and was a figure of hatred for some groups, particularly among South African whites and opponents of the ANC. The ANC's armed struggle resulted in deaths of innocent civilians, and Mandela did not deny responsibility for such casualties in his role as ANC leader. Since the end of apartheid, he was widely praised for his actions, even among white South Africans and former opponents, though not universally. Mandela wrote about his Christian conviction, and how his actions and attitudes were informed by his faith which sustained him through his years of imprisonment.

Popular Article: Robert K. Merton

Merton's ideas of strain, deviance, and anomie
Robert King Merton (July 4, 1910 – February 23, 2003) was a distinguished American sociologist, who spent most of his career teaching at Columbia University. He coined several phrases that entered into common parlance, including "self-fulfilling prophecy" and "unintended consequences." His work included development of the concept of anomie, derived from Emile Durkheim. Merton, however, focused on the discontinuity between cultural goals and the legitimate means available for reaching them. Applied to the United States, he saw the American dream as an emphasis on the goal of monetary success but without the corresponding emphasis on the legitimate avenues to achieve this goal. Merton recognized that this imbalance leads to "strain," which in turn may generate deviant, even criminal behavior. His theories have been applied in the area of criminology, to understand causes of criminal behavior, and in the development of government programs, such as affirmative action, that seek to redress the balance between society's goals and the means by which all members of the society can achieve them. Through his research into the dysfunctions in society, Merton's goal was to contribute to the betterment of human society and improvement in the lives of all its members.