Term of Art: White-Collar Crime

“White-Collar Crime: A term introduced by Edwin Sutherland in the 1940s in order to draw attention to the illegalities and misdeeds of ‘captains of industry’ and other middle-class members of the business world (see his ‘White-Collar Criminality,’ American Sociological Review, 1940, or White-Collar Crime, 1949). The great value of the idea was to redress the imbalance in criminology’s obsession with crimes of the working class. The concept tends to be used very broadly, to include both activities carried out by employees against their employer (embezzlement, pilfering), and activities undertaken by corporate executives on behalf of the corporation itself (such as violation of anti-trust regulations or stock-market rules). Strictly speaking the latter should more accurately be designated corporate crime.”

Excerpted from: Marshall, Gordon, ed. Oxford Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

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