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Article

Anomie Theory  

Jón Gunnar Bernburg

Originating in the tradition of classical sociology (Durkheim, Merton), anomie theory posits how broad social conditions influence deviant behavior and crime. The French sociologist Émile Durkheim was the first to discuss the concept of anomie as an analytical tool in his 1890s seminal works of sociological theory and method. In these works, anomie, which refers to a widespread lack of commitment to shared values, standards, and rules needed to regulate the behaviors and aspirations of individuals, is an intermediate condition by which social (dis)organization impacts individual distress and deviant behavior. An observant of the massive social changes of 19th-century Europe, Durkheim argued that anomie resulted from rapid social change and the weakening of traditional institutions, in particular the reduced authority of such institutions in the economic sphere, as well as changes in the principles underlying social inequality. A few decades later, the American sociologist Robert Merton re-formulated anomie theory, arguing how a particular malintegration of the culture-structure constitution of modern society produces high rates of crime. Echoing selected themes in Durkheim’s work, and discussing the United States as a prime example, Merton argued how a shared overemphasis on monetary success goals undermines individual commitment to social rules, and generates a particularly acute strain on individuals in disadvantaged social positions. Thus having implications for research on crime rate differences between societies as well as between individuals and groups within the society, anomie theory has inspired a broad range of both macro- and micro-level applications and extensions. On the one hand, the theory has shaped studies of crime rates across large social units, such as countries and metropolitan areas. Such research, while often limited in terms of the types of crime that can reliably be compared across large social units, has linked crime with economic inequality, materialistic values, the institutional dominance of market-driven processes and values, and rapid social change. An important development in this tradition is the advent of multilevel research that links societal factors with individual normlessness, strain, and criminal behavior. On the other hand, micro-level implications of anomie theory, often referred to as classic strain theory, have shaped studies of individual and group differences in criminal behavior within societies. This type of work often studies youths, at times bringing in notions of gangs, subculture, and differential opportunities, focusing on the criminogenic effects of strain stemming from opportunity blockage and relative deprivation. Yet the work rarely examines individual normlessness as an intermediate process linking social structure and delinquency. Finally, anomie theory has been extended and applied to research on business/corporate and white-collar crime. While more research is needed in this area, the extant work suggests how anomie theory provides a particularly powerful explanation of national-level differences in business/corporate crime (e.g., bribery). The article concludes by noting that an increased emphasis on multilevel research may lead to an integration of the macro-level and micro-level extensions and applications of anomie theory in the future.

Article

Corporate Crime and the State  

Adam Ghazi-Tehrani

State-corporate crime is defined as criminal acts that occur when one or more institutions of political governance pursue a goal in direct cooperation with one or more institutions of economic production and distribution. This concept has been advanced to examine how corporations and governments intersect to produce social harm. The complexity of state-corporate crime arises from the nature of the offenses; unlike traditional “street crime,” state-corporate crime is not characterized by the intent of a single actor to violate the law for personal pleasure or gain. Criminal actions by the state often lack an obvious victim, and diffusion of responsibility arising from corporate structure and involvement of multiple actors makes the task of attributing criminal responsibility difficult. Sufficient understanding of state-corporate crime cannot be gained through studying individual actors; one must also consider broader organizational and societal factors. Further subclassification illuminates the different types of state-corporate crime: State-initiated corporate crime (such as the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger explosion) occurs when corporations, employed by the government, engage in organizational deviance at the direction of, or with the tacit approval of, the government. State-facilitated state-corporate crime (such as the 1991 Imperial Food Products fire in Hamlet, North Carolina) occurs when government regulatory institutions fail to restrain deviant activities either because of direct collusion between business and government or because they adhere to shared goals whose attainment would be hampered by aggressive regulation.

Article

Corporate Fraud, Corruption, and Financial Malfeasance  

Harland Prechel

Corporate failures and financial crisis in the early 21st century generated an increased awareness of the pervasiveness of corporate corruption, fraud, and financial malfeasance. In addition to the tremendous financial costs to society and the loss of public confidence in corporations and social institutions, corporate wrongdoing adversely effects corporations by undermining profits, morale, and trust. Understanding contemporary corporate corruption, fraud, and financial malfeasance requires an examination of the extent to which historical variation in organizational, political-legal, and ideology arrangements affect opportunities for managers to engage in these behaviors. These components of the social structure are not mutually exclusive but are part of a dynamic system that consists of many interconnected component parts. As a whole, the literature examined here suggests that the components of the formal and informal structure create incentives, motivations, and opportunities to engage in corruption, fraud, and malfeasance. The emphasis on social structure is critical to advance our understanding of how corporate political embeddedness, the social organization of markets, and corporate characteristics all affect wrongdoing. The main findings include the following. 1.Contemporary research confirms and extends Sutherland’s initial insight that differential social structure creates variation in opportunities to engage in corporate crime. Corporate characteristics, including structure, size, vertical integration, prestige, cognitive assumptions, corporate norms, dependence on institutional investors, bounded rationality, opportunities, and political embeddedness, are associated with corporate corruption, fraud, and financial malfeasance. 2.Corporations in the United States engaged in political behavior to re-regulate multiple spheres of corporations’ political embeddedness that permitted management to enter existing markets, create new markets, and engage in high-risk behaviors in them. 3.Corporate culture and ethics interact with markets and other dimensions of the social structure to create normative conditions conducive to corporate corruption and fraud. 4.Individual characteristics, including chief executive officer’s (CEO’s) age and the networks among top management and corporate boards, affect corporate corruption, fraud, and malfeasance. 5.Given that few policy changes were implement in the 2008 post-crisis era, the political embeddedness and characteristics of corporations continue to provide opportunities for corporations and their agents to engage in corruption, fraud, and malfeasance.

Article

Extortion and Extortion Racketeering  

Atanas Rusev

Extortion as a crime has long attracted the interest of scholars, and much effort has been put into coining a precise definition that would allow distinguishing it from other similar predatory practices such as blackmail, bribery, coercion, and robbery. Academic literature classifies extortive practices according to their degree of complexity and involvement of organized crime. In this sense, the simplest form of extortion displays one offender who receives a one-time benefit from one victim, while the most sophisticated form is illustrated by racketeering, whereby an organized crime group systematically extorts money from multiple victims. Extortion as an organized crime activity can involve both episodic extortion practices and well-rooted systemic practices over a certain territory, where the latter is usually regarded as perpetrated by Mafia-type criminal organizations. Some scholars argue that extortion racketeering as a Mafia crime should be defined as sale and provision of extralegal protection services—protection of property rights, dispute resolution, and enforcement of contracts. However, others contend that extortion by Mafia-type organizations should not be counted as an economic activity but rather be considered as an illegal form of taxation imposed by quasi-political groups. In economic terms, it is a transfer of value and creates no economic output. In contrast with the traditional understanding of extortion racketeering as “defining activity of organized crime,” some scholars have also focused on “extortion under the color of office,” or, in other words, extortion perpetrated by public servants or politicians in their official capacity. Extortion has often been compared with bribery, since both crimes can be defined as an unlawful conversion of properties and goods belonging to someone else for one’s own personal use and benefit. The debate on the differences between bribery and extortion, however, is a contested one, and has followed two lines of argument: respectively, the degree of coercion involved in the crime and the role (or modus operandi) of public officials in the bribery and extortive scheme. The common element for both crimes is the fact that representatives of the state abuse their power and official position for their own benefit.

Article

Theoretical Perspectives on White-Collar Crime  

Michael Levi

White-collar crime has not developed in a linear way as an academic subject. Its definition remains contested, between those who consider that, when deciding on the boundaries of what we can explain, we cannot depart far from the decisions of criminal courts and, at the other extreme, those who substitute “social harm” for “crime” and see the theoretical task as explaining why criminal justice reacts far more severely to the less socially harmful acts. Most scholars are somewhere closer to the legalistic view, except that they substitute convictability for conviction, though convictability may be disputable except where there is a Deferred Prosecution Agreement or an agreed statement by the corporation. Individual, organizational, and cultural explanations of white-collar offenses are considered and are complementary, depending on the research question to be explored. Incomplete or distorted datasets are commonplace, but the increasing number of life course studies of white-collar criminality show that serious white-collar (and organized crime) offending typically has a later onset than other crimes. This may be due to established professionals being recruited as ‘enablers,’ and/or that a certain maturity is necessary to act as a credible borrower or investment intermediary, depending on the crime. An important dimension of white-collar crime explains the decisions about formal and informal social control as ways of dealing with misconduct. These decisions range from detailed analysis of individual cases and patterns in a financial and/or industrial/service sector to macro explanations such as intentional or neglectful police/prosecutor resource starvation and protection of elites in neo-liberal societies. Some of the strategies are affected by whether regulator/regulatee relationships are repeat players progressing up the regulatory pyramid, or whether they are outsiders or intentional harm-doers, who may be less likely to be deterred or reformed by engagement with the regulators.

Article

Theory and Green Criminology  

Kimberly L. Barrett and Rachelle F. Marshall

Green criminology refers to a perspective within criminology that, broadly speaking, is devoted to the study of crime against and harms to the natural environment. Initially, green criminology was introduced as the study of environmental harm from a political-economic vantage point and was informed by theories from critical, radical, and political-economic (e.g., “conflict paradigm”) perspectives. Over time, however, new definitions of green criminology have emerged, as have new terms for the criminological study of environmental crimes (e.g., “conservation criminology”). These developments have invited new theoretical interpretations of environmental crime and justice. While conflict theories still maintain a degree of centrality in green criminology, the perspective has expanded to include mainstream theoretical orientations (e.g., “classical paradigm,” “consensus/positivist paradigm”) as well.