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Article

White-Collar Crimes Beyond the Nation-State  

Nicholas Lord, Yongyu Zeng, and Aleksandra Jordanoska

Historically, white-collar crime scholarship, including and since the seminal work of Sutherland, has tended to concentrate empirical, conceptual, and theoretical focus on manifestations of associated crimes and deviance, their dynamics and generative conditions, within individual nation-states. While white-collar crime scholarship itself has expanded across the globe, this predilection for analyses of local and/or national-level cases and the nature, extent, and scope of these white-collar crimes has largely remained. Notwithstanding, it is not entirely uncommon for white-collar crime scholars to make reference to the international, multinational, transnational, or global aspects of the crimes they study, even if these are predominantly national in nature, but the corresponding features and components of these “beyond-national” dynamics have not been comprehensively unpacked or conceptualized. Similarly, conceptualizing and interrogating the dynamics of white-collar crimes that go beyond national boundaries as part of their organization and nature, while recognized as significant, is often not a core analytical concern. Understanding the varying characteristics and features, as well as the differing configurations, interrelations, and organizational dynamics of those white-collar crimes that in some way transcend jurisdictional boundaries, is significant for white-collar crime theory and research. Examining these issues in further detail and thinking through the implications of the beyond-national aspects of white-collar crimes is a useful framework for interrogating white-collar crimes and understanding the necessary and conditional relationships of the white-collar crime commission process that overlay onto common patterns of routine business activities. There are notable examples from the academic literature but also from real cases of white-collar crime that demonstrate how white-collar and corporate offenders have organized their criminal activities across jurisdictional boundaries, how they have externalized the risks associated with their crimes, how they have exported their crimes to take place in other jurisdictions, and/or how they have utilized cross-jurisdictional structures and systems, including digital spaces and infrastructures, to facilitate their criminal activities and associated concealment, conversion, and control of illicit finances. Such analyses have often been accompanied by reference to purported processes of globalization as a generator of new and increased opportunities for white-collar crimes (though little is known about why some opportunities are realized but not others). Globalization, despite itself being a contested concept, has emerged as a significant factor for analyses of white-collar and corporate crimes that extend beyond individual nation-states as greater interconnectedness, increased mobilities, and increased interdependencies are seen. These purported processes of globalization have been identified as possessing varying intensity and speed that have influenced opportunities for, and the organization of, white-collar crimes. That said, globalization per se does not inevitably generate more white-collar crimes organized beyond the nation-state if they can be productive without having to do so. In these terms, globalization of white-collar crimes is not automatic, but is one explanatory factor that contributes to how some white-collar crimes have beyond-state aspects, usually alongside the expansion of routine business activities. Nevertheless, there is a need to explore the spatial (including digital) contexts of white-collar crimes that have beyond-national scope with a view to questioning how useful it is, or can be, to understand how different white-collar crimes pertain to, are associated with, or are restricted to particular “territories” at the domestic (i.e., nation-state), international, transnational, multinational, supranational, and global levels and how this has implications for research, policy, and practice.

Article

The Harms and Crimes of Waste  

Lieselot Bisschop and Karin van Wingerde

The increasing volume and toxicity of waste generated globally has been one of the most significant environmental issues since the 1980s. Following several disasters across the world, waste was more strictly regulated, and the waste industry became a massive industrial complex. Waste is inherently tied to consumption and production processes and therefore goes hand in hand with societal developments like industrialization, urbanization, and globalization, which have all impacted the scale and hazardousness of waste. Although many cases of illegal waste trade have been documented and even prosecuted, the harms and crimes of waste relate to much more than the illegal transport and disposal of it across borders. Waste crimes and harms occur in everyday production and consumption processes and often remain hidden or only become known after a considerable amount of time. Moreover, most of the harms caused by waste follow from regulated industrial processes or consumer behaviors. Not only has waste been a long-time societal challenge, but it also remains a key focus of criminological inquiry. Waste continues to be a paramount example of the ambiguities that come with globalization and the regulation of harmful business and societal practices. Based on a review of the available academic literature and using several case studies as examples, this article provides a broad introduction into the topic of the harms and crimes of waste. It focuses on household and industrial waste, on (global) waste streams, on waste production, and on treatment and disposal of waste, and it illustrates the criminogenic characteristics of waste. Moreover, this article discusses both the causes (industrial processes) and the effects (harms) of waste production and disposal.

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

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

Political Corruption and State Crime  

Clayton Peoples and James E. Sutton

The state is responsible for maintaining law and order in society and protecting the people. Sometimes it fails to fulfill these responsibilities; in other cases, it actively harms people. There have been many instances of political corruption and state crime throughout history, with impacts that range from economic damage to physical injury to death—sometimes on a massive scale (e.g., economic recession, pollution/poisoning, genocide). The challenge for criminologists, however, is that defining political corruption and state crime can be thorny, as can identifying their perpetrators—who can often be collectives of individuals such as organizations and governments—and their victims. In turn, pinpointing appropriate avenues of controlling these crimes can be difficult. These challenges are exacerbated by power issues and the associated reality that the state is in a position to write or change laws and, in essence, regulate itself. One possible solution is to define political corruption and state crime—as well as their perpetrators and victims—as broadly as possible to include a variety of scenarios that may or may not exhibit violations of criminal law. Likewise, a resolution to the issue of social control would be to move beyond strictly institutional mechanisms of control. Criminological research should further elucidate these issues; it should also, however, move beyond conceptual dilemmas toward (a) better understanding the processes underlying political corruption/state crime and (b) illustrating the broader ramifications of these crimes.

Article

Women and White-Collar Crime  

Mary Dodge

Women and white-collar crime is a topic that has, overall, received little attention in the literature. Initially, women were omitted from discussion and research because of their lack of participation, though some early commentary focused on victimization. When Edwin Sutherland first drew public and academic attention to white-collar crimes, few women were employed in positions that were conducive to commit elite crimes related to occupations or professions. According to Sutherland, white-collar crime involved professional men in positions of trust. From 1939 until the 1970s, work on white-collar offenders and offenses was male-centric, which included both scholarly researchers who were exploring the topic and males committing the majority of crimes. Corporations and respected professionals, not women, were presented with a multitude of opportunities to engage in white-collar crimes with little or no serious consequences. Primarily male corporate executives, politicians, and medical professionals committed white-collar crimes that included, for example, activities such as price fixing, insider trading, bribery, insurance fraud, and Ponzi schemes. Women, who lacked opportunity outside the private sphere of the home, were less involved in crime overall and certainly were in no position to commit white-collar offenses. In the 1940s and 1950s, female crime was typically viewed as promiscuous, aberrant, and male-like behavior. Eventually, in the mid-1970s as more women moved into the public sphere seeking employment, early predictions by female scholars suggested that an increased involvement in white-collar crime was inevitable. The types of crimes committed by women, as noted by pioneering female scholars, were likely to expand beyond prostitution, check kiting, and shoplifting to white-collar offenses as opportunities became increasingly available in the public sphere. Gender inequality in most criminal endeavors continues to exist and more recent debates continue about the role of women in white-collar crime.

Article

Statistical Analysis of White-Collar Crime  

Gerald Cliff and April Wall-Parker

As far back as the 19th century, statistics on reported crime have been relied upon as a means to understand and explain the nature and prevalence of crime (Friedrichs, 2007). Measurements of crime help us understand how much of it occurs on a yearly basis, where it occurs, and the costs to our society as a whole. Studying crime statistics also helps us understand the effectiveness of efforts to control it by tracking arrests and convictions. Analysts can tell whether it is increasing or decreasing relative to other possible mitigating factors such as the economy or unemployment rates in a community. Politicians can point to crime statistics to define a problem or indicate a success. Sociologists can study the ups and downs of crime rates and any number of other variables in the society such as education, employment rates, ethnic demographics, and a long list of other factors thought to affect the rate at which crime is committed. Property value is affected by the crime rates in a given neighborhood, and insurance rates are said to fluctuate with the ups and downs of crime. Analyzing any criminal act’s prevalence, cost to society, impact on victims, potential preventive measures, correction strategies, and even the characteristics of perpetrators and victims has provided valuable insights and a wealth of useful information in society’s efforts to combat violent/index crimes. This information has only been possible because there is little disagreement as to exactly what constitutes a criminal act when discussing violent or property crimes or what has come to be grouped under the catch-all heading of “street crime”; this is decidedly not the case with crimes included under the white-collar crime umbrella.

Article

Offenders of Environmental Crimes  

Rita Faria

Criminology was born from the political and scientific project of producing evidence-based knowledge about a particular kind of subject: the criminal. This evasive topic of inquiry has driven orthodox and positivistic criminology to look for risk factors, situational clues, criminal scripts, opportunities for crime, and so on. But critiques of such approach have noted how the framework of criminal action and motivation—that is: crime—ought to be analyzed from a social constructionist perspective rather than by mere reified, legal notions. In green criminology scholarship, environmental harms and crimes have been critically debated, and it is fairly accepted that, while necessary, legalistic approaches to environmental offenses would not suffice due to their ethnocentric perspective of life, social order, and justice. However, in green criminology, evidence-based and critical debates about the environmental offender are somehow lagging. There has been a growth of research devoted to understanding environmental offending and ways to react to it, and more data about offenders is being collected, with authors now in a better position to inform about the features of those who commit environmental offenses and harms. However, a closer look at the bulk of literature reveals that green criminology has been looking at a hard-to-grasp reality, composed of a multitude of actors (and respective actions) that include individual offenders, as well as criminal networks, and legitimate organizations such as corporations and states—all of which should be envisioned as complex systems that interact with particular surroundings and contexts, moved by specific values and (sub)cultural norms. Trying to convey this multitude into one article is not an easy job and, overall, the complexity of environmental offenses reveals the multifaceted nature of offenders and the multilayered causes and motives of behaviors that harm the environment or break those laws and regulations dedicated to protecting nonhuman species, habitats, or the environment as a whole.

Article

State Crime  

Thomas MacManus

While state crime is a relatively recent event in the discipline of criminology, tracing the roots of its modern form to the 1990s, it has attracted some of the best minds to research and theorize on the immense and fatal excesses of the modern nation state. State crime is defined most convincingly by Penny Green and Tony Ward as state organizational deviance involving the violation of human rights. The crimes are organizational in nature and are carried out by vast state systems and corporate structures. This approach can be contrasted with the individual criminal liability, “scapegoat” ideology of international criminal law and other criminal law regimes. The definition relies on the criminological concept of deviance, a label applied by a social audience, to make up for the lack of criminal legal definition of the behaviors, legitimacy, and human rights norms in order to differentiate it from crimes that are carried out without harm to human or planet (such as minor international economic treaty violations). A sub-field of state crime, state-corporate crime has developed to track those crimes which occur at the intersection of the state and the market.

Article

Worker Health and Safety  

Steven Tombs and David Whyte

From the best estimates we have, workers die as a result of health and safety crimes at perhaps 70 times the rate of people who are murdered and perhaps 15 times the rate of people killed in car accidents. Yet health and safety crimes are not the typical subject matter for criminology simply because they are not interpersonal crimes. Yes, individuals are involved, but health and safety crime always requires us to look beyond individual actors playing out a criminal event in a self-contained crime “scene.” This chapter provides a detailed overview of how safety crimes might be regarded as crimes of violence, and explores in detail the way scholars have characterized the regulation of those crimes. It closes by providing a theoretical and empirical description of the “political economy” approach to understanding safety crimes with reference to the case of a young English worker, Simon Jones, who was killed at the hands of his employer.

Article

Environmental Crime  

Carole Gibbs and Rachel Boratto

Environmental crime is a complex and ambiguous term for several reasons. It is sometimes used as an umbrella term for crimes related to biodiversity, wildlife, animals, natural resources, hazardous waste, banned substances, and environmental quality, but scholars have also developed typologies to capture the unique dimensions of each form of environmental crime. Disagreements regarding whether to distinguish violations of environmental laws (addressed via civil prosecution or administrative actions) from environmental crimes (criminally prosecuted), and whether to also consider environmental harms (legal activities that harm the environment) or environmental risks produce further confusion. The range of offenders also complicates this concept, as individuals, groups/networks, and powerful organizations commit environmental crimes. The degree of harm created by each actor may, or may not, be equivalent. Given the complexities of this area of study, scholars have developed and/or tested a wide range of theoretical perspectives on and interventions to address environmental crime. Consistent with conceptual disagreements, these theoretical frameworks and corresponding interventions vary (arguably the most) based on whether the dependent variable is environmental crime (as defined by law), or environmental harm or risk defined using other criteria. However, multiple theoretical perspectives/interventions are also examined within research on these broad categories of environmental crime, harm, and risk. In order to capture the breadth of research on environmental crime, we narrow the focus of this article to pollution related crimes (e.g., hazardous waste, banned substances, environmental quality). In the following article, we offer further detail regarding conceptual discussions, legal complexities, types of offenders, types of crime, and research on this subset of environmental crimes.

Article

Individual, Educational, and Other Social Influences on Greed: Implications for the Study of White-Collar Crime  

Long Wang, Ziwei Wang, and David H. Weng

Greed is a central part of human nature. In history, feudal barons and kings, as war profiteers, continued to engage in war to acquire more after they had accumulated excessive wealth; in the modern era, greed is still rampant as the wealthy and powerful keep accumulating inordinate amounts of wealth and power. Greed does not exist in a social vacuum: it often involves a complementary reduction in other people’s outcomes, even as the greedy actor achieves substantive gains. In addition, people’s resource accumulation often stimulates rather than sates, creating a vicious cycle of extravagant spending and insatiable desire. Historical and philosophical approaches typically connect greed with immoral and deplorable behavior. Religious admonitions even make it more obnoxious and despicable. Greed is often believed to be an obvious, perhaps too obvious, cause of white-collar crime. There is no shortage of notorious cases of corporate greed, where white-collar offenders engage in amazing frauds and/or extravagant spending sprees. Yet empirical research on the relationships between greed and white-collar crime is rather limited. Greed can be both personal and environmental. On the one hand, our natural needs and wants suggest that people cannot always easily escape the temptations of greed. Thus, for at least some people, greed may be intrinsic, dynamic, and grow across spans of their life cycle. This may make restraining greed a challenging task as it represents a dissonance of human nature. On the other hand, greed is not always portrayed as disgraceful or unacceptable because of its connection to self-interest maximization and market competition, foundational elements of business and economics education and management practices. In particular, when the push for profits is pervasive, traditional, and taken-for-granted in modern organizational life, greed may inadvertently become less derogatory.

Article

State–Corporate Crime Nexus: Development of an Integrated Theoretical Framework  

Casey James Schotter and Ronald C. Kramer

State–corporate crime research has developed significantly since William Chambliss’s presidential speech to the American Society of Criminology in 1989 calling for specific attention to corporate crimes and connections with the state. From 1992 to 2000, four foundational case studies established a working theoretical framework. Since its debut in 1998, the integrated theoretical framework has had two levels of analysis added as well as the key concepts of state-initiated, state-facilitated, corporate-initiated, and corporate-facilitated crime. However, events of the 21st century have demonstrated the importance of developing the international level of analysis of the theoretical framework. The Great Recession of 2008, the Panama Papers and tax evasion by those people and corporations named, Peruvian lawsuits against German fossil fuel industries regarding climate change, the Cambridge Analytica data-mining scandal, and the global Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 elucidate the international connections between states and businesses and the need for extensive research uncovering these connections and the mechanisms used by states and corporations to maintain and reproduce these criminal partnerships.