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Toward an Integrated Theory of White-Collar Crime

James William Coleman
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 93, No. 2 (Sep., 1987), pp. 406-439
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2779590
Page Count: 34
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Toward an Integrated Theory of White-Collar Crime
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Abstract

This paper attempts to integrate etiological research on white-collar crime under the hypothesis that criminal behavior results from the confluence of appropriate motivation and opportunity. The starting point is the interactionist theory of motivation basic to most of the social psychological research on white-collar crime. Interactionist theory helps us understand white-collar crime in terms of the offenders' symbolic construction of their social worlds but ultimately fails to explain its causes. It is argued that the origins of symbolic motivational patterns are to be found in the social structure of industrial capitalism and the "culture of competition" to which it gives rise. But no theory of motivation, however sophisticated, is sufficient to explaint the causes of white-collar crime, and the paper therefore concludes with an analysis of the patterns of opportunities presented to social actors in different structural positions in advanced capitalist nations.

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