What Are The Major Difficulties Associated With Theorising White Collar Crimes?

1971 words - 8 pages

When you hear the phrase white-collar crime you immediately associate it with scandals in the financial and business sector and the sophisticated frauds of senior executives. In the last 2 decades or so there have been a number of highly publicised examples of white-collar crime, including that of Robert Maxwell who defrauded his company the Mirror Group Newspapers pension funds. Criminologists have argued that crimes of this nature are more prevalent, more serious, and more damaging to society than other crimes such as street crime (Croall, 1992). Contrary to this view there have been comparatively little research and analyses of white-collar crime in conventional criminological theori ...view middle of the document...

White-collar crime was consequently limited to crimes committed in the course of legitimate occupation. Sutherland went on to analyse many forms of white-collar crime under his definition that included activities that were not, at the time, certified by criminal law but which, being violations of civil or administrative law were punishable by law (Croall, 1992). Some scholars have argued that the misbehaviours considered by Sutherland or his adherents do not always satisfy the legal criterion for crime, Tappan (1947) goes so far as to insist on the requirement for penal conviction at court (Maguire, Morgan & Reiner, 2002). Confining interest to those crimes that are only found in the standardised criminal statistics is said to deprive the term off all its sense, and Sutherland's definition makes it possible to argue that white-collar crime is an otiose category and that white-collar criminals much like most common criminals, are young, feckless and unsuccessful (Steffenmeiser, 1989). Different commentators have made practically the opposite argument, protesting that many white-collar criminals are just technically criminal and are not socially deemed on the same level with ordinary crimes; therefore do not require the need of a sociological definition of crime (Maguire, Morgan & Reiner, 2002). The fact that such opposite criticisms can be raised is confirmation of the ambiguity of this concept of whether white-collar crime is really a crime. The issue of how and in what incidence undesirable business activities are criminalised and how frequently the criminal law is used against them is important on its own. This gives good reason for an inclusive definition that allows an analysis of law and its enforcement. As Aubert (1997) states:'For purposes of theoretical analysis it is of prime importance to develop and apply concepts which preserve and emphasise the ambiguous nature of white collar crimes and not to solve the problem by classifying them as either crimes or not crimes. Their controversial nature is exactly what makes them so interesting from a sociological point of view' (Croall, 1992).Another problem created by Sutherland's definition is whether the social status of offenders should be an element of the definition of offences. Sutherland's definition applies well to the case of Robert Maxwell who was a person of high social status with a cloak of respectability (which helped enable him to operate) that was able to commit serious fraud in the course of his occupation. None the less this does pose a problem for the research and analysis as similar frauds maybe perpetrated by offenders from all levels of occupational hierarchy from caretaker to owner/chairman (as in the case of Robert Maxwell) (Croall, 1992).Consequently, there have been recommendations that the concept should be abandoned altogether, redefined or 'liberated' (Shapiro, 1990). Essentially, some argue, white-collar crime is a crime that is committed in the course...


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