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date: 21 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter considers scholarly efforts to revise Sutherland’s original definition of white-collar crime. These efforts have had the unintended effect of creating a downward view that neglects serious elite offending. Building upon the theme that U.S. society has come to tolerate extreme amounts of common crime, thus “trivializing” serious lawbreaking, the chapter both extends this theme to white-collar and corporate crime and considers specific reasons for such trivialization. It examines the fundamental assumptions of different schools of thought regarding the nature and definition of white-collar and corporate crime that subsequently influence empirical study, findings, and theorizing. It provides a case study of definitional trivialization and subsequent effects on policy and enforcement. A major conclusion is that the most consequential forms of white-collar crime and corporate crime are rarely if ever accounted for because of definitional trivialization, leading to inadequate social policies designed to prevent them.

Keywords: white-collar crime, corporate crime, trivialization, theory, ideologies, policy, enforcement

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