White-Collar Criminals and Organizational Criminology: Theoretical Perspectives

White-Collar Criminals and Organizational Criminology: Theoretical Perspectives

Seçil Taştan
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 27
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6310-5.ch016
(Individual Chapters)
No Current Special Offers


From a multidisciplinary view, this chapter presents a conceptualization of white-collar criminality and enables understanding the psychological, organizational, and situational motives behind white-collar crimes. This chapter is noteworthy for integrating environmental, psychological, and situational factors influencing the white-collars to engage in crimes in organizations. Specifically, in the study, organization-based situational variables such as perceived ethical climate and opportunities for rule bending are examined among potential antecedents of white-collar crimes. This study enhances organizations to recognize their code of conducts and ethical climate aspects and helps to understand the causes of rule bending and criminal behaviors among white-collars. Further, the chapter provides implications for the practice and the academics regarding the importance of developing effective business ethics codes, prevention issues, and creating a strong ethical climate.
Chapter Preview


This study represents a literary theoretical background of the existing situation in studies in the field of criminology, corporate crimes, stakeholder theory, business ethics, rule bending and theories of crime in workplaces. These variables are mostly related and belonging to a number of disciplines including criminological, psychological, economical and behavioral literature. With a metaphoric expression, like individuals’ criminology, organizational criminology or corporate criminology, has gained interest by scholars and policy makers just within two decades. The major reason for this increase of attention for researching organizational criminology is the complexity of organizational behavior and the rise of corporate scandals in the business world. Thereby, from a multidisciplinary view, this chapter will lead us to see the conceptualization of white-collar criminality and to understand the psychological, organizational and situational causes behind white-collar crimes. As well as framing a conceptual view of white-collar crime, the attitudinal antecedents and perceptions of self-control will be examined along with the presentation of a general theory of crime as conceptualized by Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990). Further, organizational variables such as perceived organizational climate and opportunities for rule bending will be evaluated among several other potential antecedents of white-collar crimes.

Etymologically, the word ‘crime’ originally comes from the term ‘crimean’ meaning ‘charge’ or ‘offence’. Though the concept of crime can be defined several ways, for the purpose of this study, crime is described as the human conduct which violates the criminal laws of a country, government, or a local jurisdiction that has the right to impose power to make and enforce the laws (Sutherland, 1940; Albanese, 1984). This definition is preferred for the purpose of the current study because we cannot talk about a crime unless a particular form of behavior is defined by a law; even the behavior is so deviant or socially abnormal. Criminology is defined by Hoefnagels (1973) as the scientific study of crime as a social phenomenon, of criminals, and of penal treatment. Howard Jones (1965) provided a brief definition of criminology and described it as the science which studies the crime as a social issue, its reasons, antecedents, consequences, and the devices that society develops against it. It has been argued that crime is a social fact and defined as an act forbidden by law and for performing which the perpetrator is liable to punishment. Legally, crimes usually are defined as wrongdoing acts, delinquencies or omissions which are forbidden by a law and which are prosecuted, taken to court or punished by imprisonment. Drunken driving, murder, burglary, rape, robbery, child neglect, violence against a person, and not paying the taxes are some of the common types of crimes that can be seen in causal lives. However, as some criminologists have argued (E.g. Sampson and Laub 1993; Gottfredson and Hirschi 1990), the most important factor to undertake a crime is not only to focus on the specific criminal behavior, but also to understand the fundamental attributes of all criminal behaviors and to specify their antecedents and common consequences on the public. It is obvious that each type of the criminal act such as robbery, rape, violence, embezzlement, and corruption has negative individual, organizational and societal outcomes (Kramer, 1985). Thus, crime is regarded as an act that is socially harmful or dangerous for the public and causes organizational and public injuries that would lead to problems of sustainability. This is why the organizations, society and the government develop sanctions and take steps for preventing crimes as well as prescribing specific impositions and punishments for any type of the crime.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Ethical Climate: Employees’ awareness of the existence of codes of ethics and ethical values in the organizations and their perceptions that impact their attitudes and behaviors.

White-Collar Crime: The crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation.

Crime: The human conduct that violates the criminal laws of a state, the federal government, or a local jurisdiction that has the power to make and enforce the laws.

Business Ethics: The whole set of applications based on moral principles within the organization or occupational framework concerning the values such as honesty, commitment, and respect to the environment, fair conduct, equality, and justice.

Ethics: The perception criteria for human behavior in terms of what is good or bad, right or wrong, and what is accepted or unaccepted with moral decisions and judgments.

Rule Bending: A willingness to violate the obligations, rules, procedures, and formal requirements of the code of conduct in the organization.

Criminology: The scientific study of crime and criminals through examining the causes and consequences in both individual and societal levels.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: