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Sociology 3357F/G

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CHAPTER 1 SUMMARY The activities covered under the umbrella term “white collar crime” have a long history, but the term itself was introduced by Edwin H. Sutherland in December 1939. In a landmark American Sociological Society presidential address, he discussed “crime in the upper or white- collar class, composed of respectable or at least respected business and professional men.” Despite a half-century of study, no uniform consensus has been reached on the definition of “white collar crime” and what behaviors should be included under the term. Author David O. Friedrichs proposes a multistage approach to defining white collar crime, which consists of a polemical, typological, and operational stage. The American muckrakers of the early 20th century wrote about the exploitative crimes of the “robber barons” and their confederates. E.A. Ross (1907) promoted the notion of the “criminaloid,” the businessman who committed exploitative, if not necessarily illegal, acts out of an inhibited desire to maximize profit, all the while hiding behind a façade of respectability and piety. Trust and its violation, as well as respectability, are key elements of white collar crime. So is the perception of risk related to being either caught committing or becoming a victim of white collar crime The media play an important role in shaping our perceptions of many modern hazards by portraying many as natural, rather than human-made. In this context, Charles Perrow’s (1984) term “normal accident” is important. A comparison between white collar crime and conventional crime offenders reveals significant differences in age, race, gender, and other characteristics such as education. However, like many conventional crime offenders, many white collar crime offenders are recidivists (“career criminals”). In the 1970s, white collar crime received increased attention with the start of the social movement against white collar crime, which brought together rural populists, muckraking journalists, and organizations of civic-minded businessmen concerned about the excesses and outrages of big business. These efforts decreased in the more conservative 1980s, when federal investigative resources and budgets of regulatory agencies were curtailed, and a dip in white collar crime convictions occurred. In the 1990s, federal prosecutors appointed by the Clinton administration expressed commitment to intensified efforts against white collar crime and eventually initiated some important cases, such as the antitrust case against Microsoft, which was less rigorously pursued by the administration of George W. Bush. Nevertheless, the series of corporate scandals at the beginning of “W’s” first term forced the administration to declare a war on corporate crime, the results of which cannot yet be fully assessed. The media plays an instrumental role in exposing white collar crime through news coverage on television, radio, newspapers, and magazines. However, the media pays comparatively little attention to white collar crimes compared to co
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