3 A Are The Working Classes More Criminal

Notes on criminality of the working class for A2 Sociology

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  • Created on: 25-03-08 16:29
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White & Corporate Crime ­ Crime and Deviance Emma Rudd
3a Are the Working Classes more Criminal than the Middle
Functionalist theorists believe official statistics that state working class people tend
to be more criminal than middle class people, and that this is a true reflection of crime
rates. They explain this using the wealth differences between the classes. For example,
they state that those most likely to need to steal are going to be the poor and working
class, whereas the middle class are more likely to have what they need and therefore are
less likely to commit crimes.
However, Marxists would oppose this. They argue that working class people are no more
likely to commit crimes than the middle classes. However, police target their resources
on street crime and the criminal justice system discriminates against working class
people, so they appear to be more criminal but the reality is different. Marxists would
argue that white collar and cooperate crimes are largely ignored by the police.
Interactionists, to some extent, support the Marxists. They believe that crime statistics
are a social construction. Therefore moral entrepreneurs and agents of social control
may manipulate who becomes a `criminal' and who does not, despite the fact that most
people commit crimes.
What is white-collar crime?
The study of white-collar crime developed from the original work of Sutherland in the
1940s. His work overlapped with the interests of Marxist writers who were interested
in the `crimes of the powerful'. Both approaches share the concern that traditional
research into crime centres on such things as robbery and burglary, and in doing so
focus on working class offenders. People committing offences at the other end of the
class structure tend to be ignored. There has been general agreement that crime
committed by the powerful needs studying.
The Problem of Offender and Victim in White-Collar Crime
Sutherland originally defined white-collar crime as:
`Crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his
The definition is very vague and includes within it, two quite different activities; on the
one hand it means crimes against the organisation for which the person works, and on
the other, crimes for the benefit of the organisation for which the person works or
This has led to two confusing and overlapping traditions. First
1. Studies of occupational crime - how and why people steal from the company and
the public in activities associated with their jobs - for example the employee who
claims false expenses from the company or who overcharges customers and keeps
the additional amount.
2. Much more important is the study of corporate crime - crime by corporations or
businesses which has a serious physical or economic impact on employees,
consumers or the general public. Corporate crime is motivated by the desire to
increase profits.

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White & Corporate Crime ­ Crime and Deviance Emma Rudd
The Problem of Law and White Collar Offending
There is another problem when discussing white-collar/corporate crime, as it does not
necessarily mean that the activity / `crime' is illegal. So even if the company or person is
'caught', no one may go in front of a judge and face possible personal risk of going to
jail.…read more

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White & Corporate Crime ­ Crime and Deviance Emma Rudd
when the goods have been declared unsafe in the more affluent countries (a fairly
common procedure with pharmaceuticals).
Box (1987) claimed that multinational businesses / companies use undeveloped countries
to dump products, plants and practices that are illegal in industrialised countries. They
are able to do this because the poorer countries do not have the resources to control
the large companies and also officials are likely to accept bribes.…read more

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White & Corporate Crime ­ Crime and Deviance Emma Rudd
law. Box argues that if an organisation is unable to achieve its goals using socially
approved methods, then it may turn to other, possibly illegal methods of achieving its
goal of maximising profit.
Box suggests that there are a number of potential obstacles, which organisations may
have to overcome to achieve their goals.…read more

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White & Corporate Crime ­ Crime and Deviance Emma Rudd
Occupational crime
The impact of occupational crime
Theft by employees is a major source of crime in Britain - though whether the action of
depriving an employer of goods, services or money is actually defined as theft is a real
issue.…read more


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