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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
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2095761
Page Count: 20
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Collaring the Crime, not the Criminal: Reconsidering the Concept of White-Collar Crime
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Abstract

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.

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