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Crime and Deviance in the Workplace: Textbook Notes
Chapter One: What Is White Collar Crime?
Defining White-Collar Crime
Sutherland coined the term “white-collar crime”
His definition: a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in
the course of his occupation
The white collar criminal should be differentiated, on one hand, from the person of lower
socio-economic status who violates the regular penal code or the special trade regulations
which apply to him; and on the other hand, from the person of high socio-economic status
who violates the regular penal code in ways not connected with his occupation
For Sutherland, both the status of the actor and the occupational location of the act
determine whether an illegality is a white-collar crime
Problem: we need to pay attention to status not only in regard to how it influences access
to opportunities but also in regard to who has it and who doesn’t
Another way of looking at white collar crime: offense-based definition
Edelhertz proposed a highly influential offense-based definition of white collar crime
Definition: an illegal act or series of illegal acts committed by non-physical means and by
concealment or guile to obtain money or property, to avoid the payment or loss of money
or property, or to obtain business or personal advantage
Edelhertz four basic types of white collar crime
oPersonal crimes crimes by persons operating on an individual, ad hoc basis, for
personal gain in a nonbusiness context (income tax violations, credit card fraud,
oAbuses of trust crimes in the course of their occupations by those operating
inside businesses, government, or other establishments, or in a professional
capacity, in violation of their duty of loyalty and fidelity to employer or client
(embezzlement, commercial bribery, etc)
oBusiness crimes crimes incidental to and in furtherance of business operations,
but not the central purpose of such business operations (antitrust violations, etc)
oCon games white-collar crime as a business, or as the central activity of the
business (home improvement schemes, etc)
Shapiro argued that the essential characteristic of the acts that are commonly called white
collar crimes is that they involve the violation or abuse of trust
Major criticism of the offense-based approach: in practice it misses the crimes of the
powerful who simply sidestep the criminalization process
Reconsidering the two approaches
Regardless of the characteristics of the individuals involved, white-collar crimes are
committed using particular techniques (they rely on certain modus operandi)
Many of the characteristics that are part of offender-based definitions are indeed
important precisely because they provide offenders with access to opportunities for
white-collar crime
Both approaches are not contradictory or mutually exclusive, they emphasize different
aspects of a general empirical regularity involving the characteristics or social positions
of individuals and the types of offenses that they tend to commit
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