Collaring the Crime, not the Criminal: Reconsidering the Concept of White-Collar Crime

Susan P. Shapiro
American Sociological Review
Vol. 55, No. 3 (Jun., 1990), pp. 346-365
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Collaring the Crime, not the Criminal: Reconsidering the Concept of White-Collar Crime


The concept of white-collar crime, part of the sociological vocabulary for half a century, rests on a spurious correlation between role-specific norms and the characteristics of the occupants of these roles. In this paper, I strive to "liberate" the concept of white-collar crime by disentangling the identification of the perpetrators with their misdeeds. I suggest that white-collar criminals violate norms of trust, enabling them to rob without violence and burgle without trespass. I develop a conception of trust, expose the strategies by which wayward trustees establish and exploit trust, and demonstrate how the social organization of trust abuse confounds traditional systems of social control. Drawing on research on securities fraud, I debunk commonly-held understandings about the role of class bias in the legal system by showing that the leniency accorded white-collar criminals is due to the social organization of their misdeeds and the policing and punishment problems their crimes pose, rather than to their status.

Notes and References

This item contains 111 references.

  • 1
    This reference contains 4 citations:
    • Edelhertz 1970
    • Katz 1979b
    • Moore 1980
    • Reiss and Biderman 1980
  • 2
    This reference contains 6 citations:
    • Luhmann 1979
    • Barber 1983
    • Gambetta 1988
    • Reiss 1984
    • Wheeler, Mann, and Sarat 1988, pp. 76-9
    • Cressey's (1953)
  • 3
    This reference contains 9 citations:
    • Coleman (1974)
    • Jensen and Meckling (1976)
    • Mitnick (1980)
    • Frankel (1983)
    • Moe (1984)
    • Clark (1985)
    • Pratt and Zeckhauser (1985)
    • Shapiro (1987)
    • Heimer (1988).
  • 5
    Sutherland (1940)
  • 6
    Katz (1979a, p. 296)
  • 7
    This reference contains 2 citations:
    • Bardach and Kagan 1982
    • Braithwaite 1985a
  • 8
    Braithwaite (1985a, pp. 86-94)
  • 9
    Weisburd et al. (forthcoming)
  • 12
    Hagan and Parker's (1985)
  • 13
    This reference contains 2 citations:
    • Nagel and Hagan 1982
    • Wheeler et al. 1982
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