White-Collar Criminal: The Offender in Business and the Professions

By Gilbert Geis | Go to book overview

14
THE CRIMINAL VIOLATION
OF FINANCIAL TRUST

Donald R. Cressey

The notion that a scientist must seek to formulate generalizations that include all of the cases of the phenomena with which he is concerned has been brought to the attention of sociologists many times. 1 The perfect form of scientific knowledge is assumed to be universal generalizations which permit the discernment of exceptions, thus making possible the perfecting or refinement of generalizations. However, this notion, which is essentially an assumption regarding the proper design for scientific research, has been applied only rarely in criminology and never in an attempt to formulate a sociological theory of trust violation. In fact, while the criminal violation of financial trust poses serious problems for theoretical criminology, textbook writers and other sociologists who have offered theories of criminal causation have for the most part ignored it. 2 As a result, almost all publications on trust violation have been issued by persons or agencies primarily interested in the techniques used or in prevention of the crime, and the vast majority of the explanations given in the literature merely repeat and emphasize popular views. Few of the

____________________
Reprinted from American Sociological Review, 15 ( December, 1950), pp. 738-743.

-202-

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