Pragmatically, the deviant behaviour of white-collar criminals provides students of sociology a different exploration of how human nature works in clandestine operations in plain view. Society, at least superficially does not suspect a so-called white-collar individual of criminal behaviour in general, as stereotypes tend to lead people’s thoughts in the direction one way or another. While, the dishevelled, unkempt, anti-social “looking” individual exists as suspect of deviant behaviour by his/her mere appearance including labelled as a criminal in some regards, the white collar individual stands in society appearance wise as an upstanding citizen (Goode 2008).
Historically, the concept of white collar is not so new:
Edwin Sutherland created the concept of white-collar crime more than 70 years ago to draw attention to the fact that individuals in all social classes commit crimes. (In addition) one of the largest difficulties in understanding white-collar crime has centred on an ongoing debate about how to define white-collar crime. (Payne, 2012, p. 34) [Sic]
In this scholastic investigation of deviant behaviour of white-collar crime, the reference connects to how deviance exists among this sub-social group as connected to the crimes they commit as outlined by laws demanded and established by society. The topic is important and worth further investigation because of the influence, this type of criminal behaviour has on sociological studies as pointed out by the literature of key academics referenced in all the sections in the following work. Personal views on the subject appear in the section titled, “Subjective View of the Positive/Negative Impact of Deviant Behaviour on Society.” The academic nature of the discourse presented addresses five specific areas. As outlined by the learning task these five questions subsequently provides the responses according the headings and subheadings.
These responses define the rationale of the term or label of what constitutes deviant white-collar crime, how deviants in this sector view their own behaviour, the positive, and the negative influence of such behaviour on society. Additionally, the responses also provide the manner society respond to this particular behaviour, and, finally, the application of theories from this course that include deviant and control theory.
Rationale of the Label
White-collar crimes as deviant behaviour does not readily make itself apparent from a physical sense as already pointed out in the introduction. Nonetheless, the deviant label applies to the behaviour of the white-collar criminal aligned to activities that threaten, disturb, offend, produce evil, and fall under what society terms immoral. According to Prus and Grills (2003), “At the very heart of this standpoint is the notion that nothing is inherently good or bad, appropriate or inappropriate (p. 4).”
More accurately, in its definition, deviant connects to the production of an activity or thing produced by humans contradicting the accepted mores and morals of the society this takes place. “Much more is involved in the study of deviance than acknowledging that deviance is a matter of definition or that deviance signifies both realms of moral disapproval and arenas of intrigue for those in the human community.” The white-collar criminal and the product of his/her actions unlike those of the common criminal may therefore, go undetected (Prus & Grills, 2003, p. 4).
White-collar criminals while equal to the common criminal in breaking the law and behaving immorally, the fact is they are different. In fact, little evidence exist suggesting whit-collar criminals’ parents or developmental environment influenced his/her behaviour as specific sociological research finds in the case of the common criminal background (Prus & Grills, 2003)..
Friedrichs and Schwartz (2008) explain, “Indeed, we are unaware of any study documenting that white-collar offenders are products of poor parenting or afflicted with low self-control. One major study (by Weisbund and Waring, 2001) of a cohort of convicted white-collar offenders concluded that these offenders were not very different from non-offenders (p. 147).” The focus on human activity from a community context defines white-collar crime as a moral deviation at the least and the established laws deem the activity criminal (Payne, 2012; Prus & Grills, 2003).
Deviants View of Their Own Behaviour
Clearly, depending on the type of criminal activity of the white-collar deed, the behaviour may result in a one-time occurrence of embezzlement or take place in smaller increments called siphoning over the individual’s career (Payne, 2012). Prus and Grills (2003), discuss how the lone actor in the white-collar criminal behaviour as a complicated issue, especially for the social science investigator. The lone white-collar criminal takes place individualistically on the surface but in actuality understanding its parameters connect to the group.
On the other hand, as outlined by Lilly, Cullen, and Ball (2015), explain how immoral and unethical corporate culture historically and even today perpetrate long-term white collar crime that include disparaging wages based on race, gender, ethnicity, and culture. Their explanation definitely fits the intentional avarice of corporations such as British Petroleum Oil cost cutting activity causing the death of employees and the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico causing millions of dollars in damage to the environment and the American (and Mexican) fishing industry.
Subjective View of the Positive/Negative Impact of
Deviant Behaviour on Society
Since the question, here does not specifically address white-collar crime then subjectively approaching this question from the positive perspective of the impact of deviant behaviour on society looks at the actions of people breaking the law as civil disobedience. Falcón and Tella (2004) explain the positive aspects of breaking the law connected to civil disobedience fits this personal point of view expressed in this part of the discourse. Distinguishing the breaking of the law as a justification in terms of civil disobedience considers, “Acts of civil disobedience may be unjustified while justified acts of law-breaking may not themselves be acts of civil disobedience (p. 144).”
An example considers:
A person, breaking the laws which stipulate the equality of all before the law, evicts black people from his restaurant (and) another person drives faster than the speed permitted by law in order to take a child who is gravely ill to the hospital. In the first example, we have a situation of disobedience not justified in principle. In the second, we have an act of justified law-breaking that, insofar as it does not constitute a protest, would be difficult to consider an act of civil disobedience. (Falcón and Tella, 2004, p. 144) [Sic]
Therefore, any misperception between the definition of civil disobedience with justification of breaking the law as appearing in the famous definition of civil disobedience offered by the precepts of Gandhi look at civil disobedience as an act of "civil violation of the dictates of an unjust law” as explained by Falcón and Tella (2004). A proposed improvement on the Gandhi definition Falcón and Tella (2004) suggest so that “rather than speaking of immoral dictates, he had referred to dictates ‘which he who acts considers immoral (p. 144).’”
In understanding this, Falcón and Tella (2004) explain that initially civil disobedience has to appeal to principles of impartiality as well as considering such an act as a moral justification against an existing unfair and current law but only as offered abstractly as a positive social change rationalization to change what is clearly without justification. The abstract nature of this example is the act of justification.
In agreement with Payne (2012), brings the examples of negative influence of white-collar crime (in this instance using the direct reference to this as outlined in the direction of this academic exercise) constituting criminal law breaking. In doing so, this looks at such individuals that commit deviant acts that occur during their role in their upper class occupations in society.
Examples of the negative and deviant crime committed by white-collar individuals includes embezzlement, nurses or doctors stealing drugs from the workplace for the purpose of personal use or for illegal sales, financial investors stealing money from those trusting him/her with their investment monies, and insider information in the stock exchange used to illegally make money from investments. The betrayal to society in particular is when jurors, prosecutors, or judges accept bribery money either to drop criminal charges or to compromise the outcomes of a jury decision (Payne, 2012).
Society Response/Reaction to Positive/Negative Deviant Behaviour
In accord with the previous example of the positive influence of deviant behavior aligned to civil disobedience the response or reaction by society compels the general population and the leaders of a society (in particular democracies) to support and advocate such actions. The Civil Rights Movement of the United States shows the deviant behaviour of the activists breaking the illegal Jim Crow laws in the southern states led to the signing of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 making it illegal to discriminate against anyone because of race, culture, gender, age, ethnicity, or life style.
The negative reaction by society towards (again back to the focus of white-collar deviant behaviour) in particular is the acts that rob people of their money such as the intentional security fraud committed against investors when either a corporate director or officer misrepresents, withholds information, or distorts information related to information about stock as to its value. Security fraud typically falls under both state and federal laws (Reuters, 2014).
Payne (2012) looks at the deviant criminal behaviour about legal activities that hurt society because of politics giving them the upper hand in behaving in a manner some (including the subjective reasoning offered in this instance) deem morally criminal. This aligns to the practices of the tobacco companies, gun makers, and hog farmers putting the health of society in jeopardy with the very nature of their businesses (hog farmers and the unhealthy supplemental biological injections they poison the meat).
Without their political associations and their money, these capitalist endeavours could not flourish in an ethically run society. From the perspective of the growing pains that a democratic society incurs it is this type of white-collar crime (by the relationship of the corporation aspect) legally does harm to society according to many within the society beliefs (Payne, 2012). Without a doubt the corrupt practices of white-collar enterprises causing socially and philosophically based crimes to the environment, pharmaceutical practices that do not look for cures but market more drugs or test their drugs in third world countries all exemplify the harm to society of white-collar deviant behavior that in an ideal world have criminal repercussions. Committing actions are not criminal rather, it is the fact they exist that deems them criminal and have a negative impact on society (Payne, 2012).
Within the context of white-collar criminal behaviour, the connection to deviance theory certainly finds a fit. The connection to anomie as a collective (corporation culture) and individual (upper class professionals) would explain such deviant criminal behaviour as it relates to feelings of superiority or that society does not offer achieving outlined goals by any other means. Tittle (1995) explains how older adults exhibiting criminal deviant behaviour according to this theory have the adroitness for exploitation of their position in an organization enabling such actions leading to criminal behaviour.
The affiliation of the adult white-collar worker with the organization where the criminal act takes place that provides the environment cultivating the anomie. Historically, the deviant criminal behaviour of the leaders of corporations intentionally exploiting workers, putting the general population lives at risk by dumping toxic waste into watersheds markedly explains how this theory applies to such criminal behaviour (Tittle, 1995).
This theory explains the individual white-collar crime from the definition of a lack of self-control. Readily applied by sociologists to the typical lower class criminal behavior in groups and individually, the connection to the upper class or more educated and privileged individual in the social station of the white-collar worker pragmatically seems a logical application of this theory (Friedrichs & Schwartz, 2008).
Other than greed, the idea of a white-collar worker committing a crime that benefits them looks at the clear connection to having little self-control in making the choice committing a crime when he/she must consider the ramifications of disclosure of the act. Tittle (1995) and Friedrichs and Schwartz (2008) explains the likelihood that other variables influence the lack of self-control leading to the white-collar individual worker committing deviant crimes remains operative as well.
Further, the possibility of crime and the lack of self-control influencing one the other is also highly likely. Therefore, the assumption of rational choices in a white-collar worker committing criminal behaviour in the workplace looks at the level of this influence of crime and seems likely however, that other variables in this person’s life are operative and consequently, add to the superficial strangeness of answering why (Friedrichs & Schwartz, 2008; Tittle, 1995).
These variables influencing the lack of self-control and the act of crime therefore, offers again, a superficial reasoning why the white collar worker’s rational choice assumption in choosing deviant behaviour in the criminal act in his/her job must therefore, subjectively overlook any one of a combination of unwanted outcomes (Friedrichs & Schwartz, 2008; Tittle, 1995).
As proposed in the introduction pragmatically, the deviant behaviour of white-collar criminals provides students of sociology a different exploration of how human nature works in clandestine operations in plain view. In the previous discourse presented in this academic learning exercise the investigation of deviant behaviour of white-collar crime discussed responses fully explaining a definition of white-collar crime.
Additionally, discourse in this scholastic endeavour included providing a rationale of the term or label of what constitutes deviant white-collar crime. Further, responses to the instructional questions revealed what the literature provides on how deviants in this sector view their own behaviour as well as the positive, and the negative influence of such behaviour on society.
The responses also provided the manner society reacts to this particular behaviour, and, finally, the application of theories from this course included deviant and control theories connection from both a philosophical and sociological perspective tied to white-collar criminal behaviour showing the complexity of this part of society within and outside legal precepts.
In particular, the discourse referencing the control theory brought a better understanding of how individual maturity and cognition of a moral sense are internalized processes. When the internal controls that typically, underpin moral behaviour choices go awry then other influences affect this control factor leading to deviant behaviour. At the same time, the outer control influences found in family, the clergy, law enforcement, society in general also impact the manner people, including the white collar worker in making morally correct choices no longer substantially does so then deviant behaviour choices may become easier for the white collar worker.
FalcÓn y Tella, M. J. (2004). Civil Disobedience. Boston: Martinus Nijhoff.
Goode, E. (Ed.). (2008). Out of Control: Assessing the General Theory of Crime. Stanford, CA: Stanford Social Sciences.
Friedrichs, D. O., & Schwartz, M. D. (2008). 10: Low Self-Control and High Organizational Control: the Paradoxes of White-Collar Crime. Goode, E. (Ed.). (2008). Out of Control: Assessing the General Theory of Crime. Stanford, CA: Stanford Social Sciences
Lilly, R. J., Cullen, F. T., & Ball, R. A. (2015). 11: Crimes of the Powerful. Criminology Theory-Context and Consequences. Sixth Edition. SAGE Publications, Inc.
Payne, B. K. (2012). White-Collar Crime: A Text/Reader. Copyright © 2012 by SAGE Publications, Inc.
Prus, R., & Grills, S. (2003). The Deviant Mystique: Involvements, Realities, and Regulation. Westport, CT: Praeger.
Reuters. (2014). Securities Fraud. Retrieved from
Tittle, C. R. (1995). Control Balance: Toward a General Theory of Deviance. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.