Corporate and White Collar Crime: an Introduction

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Corporate & White Collar Crime

Powerful groups can manipulate the definition of what is considered criminal. Only WC crime considered criminal

When they commit such crimes as fraud, tax evasion, members of privileged groups often escape punishment, or suffer less severe punishment

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Corporate Crime

Acts committed by companies to increase profits e.g. breaking health and safety laws/dumping waste to avoid paying for proper disposal

A second meaning includes activities harmful to others, but not illegal

STEVEN BOX: In terms of harmed caused to individuals and losses to public in unpaid tax revenue, environmental costs and costs in health and welfare benefits, corporate crime is more serious than street crime/burglary. Estimated £16billion lost. ·

Often unclear of victim in corporate crime; normally drawn from following categories: ·

  • Consumers in general false or misleading claims in ads, faulty, dangerous goods
  • Employees failure to employ health and safety
  • Public More subtle than harm to consumers e.g. tax evasion leads to higher taxes
  • Process of corporate decision-making is complex; there is no one single person to blame

Example Ferry sank in 1989, over 100 deaths Bow doors were left open for too long as it left harbour Individual directly responsible had fallen asleep He claimed he had worked long hours and was tired Leaving the doors open was normal practice as it achieved faster crossing time This decision was made at senior level faster crossing, more business Demand for higher profits and fewer members of staff came from board of directors When came to court, no fines or jail sentences, no crime had been committed

White Collar / Occupational Crime Crime committed by people in clerical, supervisory or managerial employment SUTHERLAND: First raised idea in 1940s. Crime committed by person of high social status and respectability in course of his occupation However, such crimes not always by people of high social status CROALL: Crime committed in the course of legitimate employment involving the abuse of an occupational role problem with this definition ignores tax evasion White-collar crime characterised by invisibility of victim and complexity. Often occurs when person with expert knowledge uses it to steal or defraud. Difficult to catch them and victim is often unaware. White-collar criminals often given soft punishment, given amounts of money involved. Not regarded as seriously as street crime/burglary. Marxists argue it is connected to ability of powerful to manipulate values of society. Criticisms of Marxist


  1. Ignores individual motivation for crime; concentrates on nature of capitalism and how economic factors force people to act in certain ways. Perceptions, ideas and motivations are rarely discussed.
  2. Marxists claim high rate of crime amongst WC, youth and minorities is due to biased policing. They also argue that laws are biased against WC, forcing them into crime.
  3. Not all laws benefit UC, many come from genuine agreement. Marxists reject this, laws that seem to benefit everyone are useful ultimately to UC. By providing a few laws that are of use to everyone, they hide their real nature. This is rejected by MISHRA this form of Marxist analysis, left Functionalism means that any law can be shown to be in some way functional to maintenance of capitalism. This makes any meaningful debate with Marxists, impossible.
  4. Societies, which call themselves Marxist, have equal crime rate to capitalist ones, yet in Marxist society, there should be no crime. SUMMARY Marxists attack traditional concern of sociologists of crime and deviance with street crime They argue crime arises from definitions of crime imposed by UC They focus on extent of crime committed by corporations and white collar cime, demonstrating that crime is diffused through society

Halls work begins with relative autonomy Ruling class dont manipulate activities of control agencies These agencies strongly influenced by needs of capitalism but to some extent are autonomous According to Hall, the sociologist must uncover links between way control orgainisations operate, the effects upon people being controlled and benefits to ruling class

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