Explanations for Corporate Crime

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  • Explanations of Corporate Crime
    • Strain Theory
      • Merton's strain theory argues that deviance results form the inability to achieve goals that society's culture prescribes by using legitimate means.
      • Box uses this theory to explain corporate crime.
        • He argues that if a company cannot achieve its goal by maximising profit by legal means, it may do so through illegal means.
      • Clinard and Yeager found law violations by large companies increased as their financial performance deteriorated.
    • Differential Association
      • Sutherland sees crime as behaviour learned from other in a social context
        • The less we associate with people who hold attitudes favouring the law, and the more we associate with people with criminal attitudes, the more likely we are to become deviant.
      • If a company's culture justified committing crimes to achieve corporate goals, employees will be socialised into this criminality.
      • We can link the idea of differential association to two other concepts
        • Deviant Subculture: they offer deviant solutions to their member' shared problems
          • The culture of businesses may favour and promote competitive, aggressive personality types who are willing to commit crime to achieve success
        • Techniques of Neutralisation: Sykes and Matza argue that individuals can deviate more easily if they can produce justifications to neutralise their moral objectification.
          • White collar criminals may blame the authority for their actions and normalise it with a 'everyone is doing it' attitude.
    • Labelling Theory
      • Typically, it is the working-class who are more likely to have their actions defines as crimes.
      • De-labelling: sociologists have applied this to white or corporate crimes.
        • Businesses and professionals often have the power to avoid labelling through economic wealth to afford lawyers and accountants.
        • The reluctance or inability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute also reduces the number of offences officially recorded.
          • This means sociologists who rely on official records and statistics will inevitably under-estimate the extent to these offences.
    • Marxism
      • Corporate crime is the result of the normal functioning of capitalism.
      • Box argues that capitalism has successfully created 'mystification', that is, it has spread ideology that corporate crime is less widespread and harmful than working-class crime.
        • Peare argues that this sustains the illusion that it is the exception rather than the norms, and thus avoids causing a crisis of legitimacy for capitalism.
      • Capitalism comply with the law only if it is enforced strictly, where effective controls are lacking, such as in developing countries, capitalism shows its true face.
    • Evaluation
      • Both strain theory and Marxism seem to over-predict the amount of business crime. Nelken argues, it is unrealistic to assume that all companies would offend if there was not a risk of punishment.
      • It doesn't explain crime in non-profit making agencies, such as the police, army of civil-service
      • Law abiding may also be more profitable than law breaking


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