Is White Collar Crime Serious

Crime, Culture and Society - Assignment, Semester 1
Is White Collar Crime, Serious?

Before the severity of white collar crime can be assessed the term white collar crime, coined by Edwin Sutherland, must first be defined. White collar crime is a term which encompasses a variety of criminal activities in different parts of the social structure. White collar crime is associated with bribery, corruption and abuse of a person’s power and position. White collar crime is different to crimes of the powerful, as although Edwin Sutherland (1949) definitions states that “white collar crime is crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation.” The key to white collar crime is the abuse of a person’s power and position, as it doesn’t matter how little their power may be, or how high up their position is; abusing it is classed as white collar crime. The more recent definition of white collar crime by McLaughlin and Muncie (2006) supports the notion that white collar crime is different to that of the powerful by including in their definition “...committed by people of relatively high status, or enjoying high levels of trust...” as high levels of trust do not always relate to the powerful.
Edwin Sutherland was adamant that white collar crime was not being treated as seriously as it should and by using the term white collar crime aimed to highlight the criminal aspect of the act. He claimed that white collar crime was either not detected or not prosecuted, and from his work white collar crime was regarded as criminal deviance of the middle and more powerful classes. Sutherland was highly criticised by other criminologists such as Tappan, he suggested that hidden or undetected crimes should not be considered in criminal statistics and in fact some of the acts Sutherland argued to be criminal, Tappan suggested were not deviant and in fact just normal business practice. Other critiques such as Nelken argues that Sutherland’s...