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Chapter 6

SOC 2070 Chapter Notes - Chapter 6: Profit Margin, Total Institution, Real Crime

Course Code
SOC 2070
Norman Dubeski

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Week 7
Chapter 6: White Collar Crime – page #129-153:
Individual vs. Structural Deviance:
Some acts that are widely disapproved of and condemned are engaged in by individuals who
act more or less on their own, although within a setting of their peers and a national, social,
and cultural environment
We can trace the agency of most of the deviant acts we’ve looked at so far in the book to a
single individual again, within the larger ambience or environment murder, rape, robbery,
drug use
Such acts are forms of deviance in which virtually any member of the society could engage or
could be designated as “having” it is the individual who is the focus of the origin of
judgments and deviance; all individuals in the society are designated with respect to deviance
or conventionality of their beliefs or mental or physical condition
Individual deviance corresponds to two of Goffman’s famous trilogy first, behaviour or
conditions that indicate the “blemishes of individual character”, and second, physical traits
that are considered “abominations of the body”
Goffman’s “stigma of tribe, religion, and nation” likewise located each and every person along
with an axis of degrees of supposed acceptability vs. unacceptability
Such individuals act within a structural setting although structural conditions certainly
influence individual actions, the fact remains that most people do not engage in the behaviour
Other acts, disapproved of and condemned by other, relevant social collectivities, cannot be
reduced to the added-up, discrete acts of individual actors they are more or less purely the
product of local or society-wide structures nation-states, corporations, organizations, units
within organizations entities whose agency we can trace above and beyond the individual
Some of our other discussions address characteristics, such as poverty, race, and physical
traits that do not require behaviour at all
Unconventional beliefs also may represent a form of deviance, although they may not
express themselves in overt actions like the deviant behaviours we’ve discussed, they are
structural in foundation but individual in manifestation
White collar crime is a hodgepodge category that consists of two types of offenses:
1. Includes those acts that are illegal and can be engaged in only by persons who occupy
the relevant positions, but whose dynamics are similar to the other deviancies we’ve
discussed for far; within a particular environment and with or without the collaboration of
peers, the occupants of these positions act more or less on their own
2. Corporate crime; it entails individuals who act as embodiments of a particular
organization and within a given organizational setting the act could not have been
performed without that actor’s location within that setting, and the collective setting of the
act dilutes or tamps down the stigma, condemnation, or deviance that adheres to the
Of such illegal acts, we have two varieties:
1. Lower-level individual white collar crime embezzlement by bank tellers, and other
professional crimes, such as doctors making fraudulent statements in insurance forms,
pharmacists stealing drugs from their shelves, and individual investors and entrepreneurs
padding their expense accounts to receive greater refunds from the IRS; this is a form of
deviance that results in the condemnation and judgments against individual perpetrators,
if apprehended, but nonetheless it is not a form of deviance that just anyone can enact; it
is the individual’s position within an organizational structure that enables the perpetration
of the act
2. Structural or corporate white collar crime made up of those actions that are also located
within a structural setting, but which are not enacted by one or a small number of specific
individuals; its setting is organization, its agency or motivation is organizational, and its
enactment is organizational; in all likelihood, the act was planned and mandated at or
near the top of the power hierarchy by the major decision-makers
With respect to crime and deviance being enacted by actors whose behaviour is coordinated
by an organizational structure, the same can be said for organized crime and terrorist

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Week 7
conspiracies but criminologists do not regard the illegal behaviour enacted by such
organizations as “white collar crime” but a different species of crime altogether
Organizational deviance stands outside Goffman’s trilogy they can only be enacted by a
network of persons each of whom has a particular position in a particular organization; only
corporate executives and their subordinates can engage in a corporate crime, and only by
consulting and interacting with a web of peers
With respect to being judged as engaging in deviance, the corporate and government crime
categories are completely irrelevant for most of the members of society
Certain actions that are regarded as deviant outside the organization are actually endorsed,
encouraged, and rewarded by and within the organization they are endorsed because they
are thought to further the organization’s interests; other actions are discouraged, punished,
and regarded as deviant by the organization
Corporate crime is by definition illegal behaviour that is enacted on behalf of the corporation
in contrast, most (although not all) embezzlement, entails an employee stealing from a
Corporations whose top executives strongly and openly oppose, monitor, and sanction the
illegal behaviour of their underlings, are likely to have less of it than those corporations whose
executives seem indifferent to, or encourage, such behaviour
Institutional climate is largely the product of social control emanating from the top of the
organizational hierarchy institutional climate also applies to changes in time; after a
corporation is seriously sanctioned for a business crime, accompanied by media reports and
negative public opinion, there is likely to be a lull in illegal activities
The Discovery and Naming of White Collar Crime:
The white collar crime concept had its origin in the work of the “muckrakers”, a loose coterie
of journalists, investigative reporters, historians, lawyers, and a few novelists, who, early in
the 20th century, delved into and whose about a variety of illegal, unethical, harmful, and
otherwise abominable and scandalous practices by corporations, bureaucracies, and other
major organizations and institutions; these practices included corruption in municipalities,
unhealthful, inhumane conditions in food-processing plants, dangerous conditions in coal
mines, illegal and deceptive advertising, the abuse of mental patients by staff, the exploitation
of factory workers, running “sweat shops”, the exercise of monopolies and trusts, the use of
child labour, bribery and corruption, the illegal use of prison labour, and so on
The passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 represents the muckraker’s greatest
legislative triumph; it eventually forced the federal inspection of meat products, forbade the
manufacture and sale of harmful or ineffective medical nostrums, imposed the labeling of
habit-forming drugs, and paved the way for the creation of the Food and Drug Administration
Perhaps the most important overall impact of the muckrakers achieved was in arousing the
conscience of the public about harmful, dangerous, exploitative, unethical, corporate
practices; eventually legislative reform caught up with what needed to be done, though
business nearly always strenuously lobbied against such reforms
In effect, the muckrakers exposed, stigmatized, and deviantized a major swath of corporate
and industrial practices that hadn’t yet been criminalized
Edward A. Ross was one of the first social scientists to recognize the concept, and the
import, of white collar crime in Sin and Society, he wrote that the railroad magnate “pick
pockets with rebates” and the manufacturer murders “with adulterants instead of bludgeons”,
burglarized with “rake-offs” rather than a crowbar, cheats with a “company prospectus” rather
than a deck of cards, “scuttles his town instead of his ship” and, in the end, “does not feel on
his brow the brand of a malefactor”; Ross dubbed the white collar offender the “criminaloid”
Sociologists and criminologists, almost universally, name Edwin Sutherland as the most
historical figure in the development of the concept of white collar crime Sutherland
introduced the term “white collar crime” in 1939; “white collar crime, may be defined
approximately as a crime committed by a person of respectively a high social status in the
course of his occupation”
Sutherland states that his principal motivation for developing the white collar concept was
scientific and theoretical that is, to argue for differential association or socialization as the
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