Constructing White-Collar Crime: Rationalities, Communication, Power

Constructing White-Collar Crime: Rationalities, Communication, Power

Constructing White-Collar Crime: Rationalities, Communication, Power

Constructing White-Collar Crime: Rationalities, Communication, Power

Synopsis

A sociologist and a lawyer delve into the political processes that led to Germany's new laws against white-collar crime. They conclude that economic and political rationalities carried more weight than concerns about justice, and that though the laws are intended to curb the behavior of the powerful"

Excerpt

The ambiguous nature of white-collar crimes...is exactly what makes them so interesting from a sociological point of view and what gives us a clue to important norm conflicts, clashing group interests, and maybe incipient social change...The major variables which account for the defining of such acts as crimes seem to be connected with the concept of multiple social hierarchies or diverse status systems. Vilhelm Aubert, White-Collar Crime and Social Structure

(1952, pp.266, 271)

For most Western countries, including the United States of America (US) and the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), the 1960s and 1970s witnessed an international trend to criminalize the deviance of white- collar offenders. For example, in 1976 and 1986 the German legislature passed long-debated bills against economic crime, criminalizing offenses such as subsidy- and credit-related fraud, offenses tied to bankruptcy and usury, computer crimes, and credit card fraud. Both pieces of legislation were preceded by a first-ever debate on economic crime at the 49th meeting of the German Lawyers Association (Deutscher Juristentag) in 1972. They were prepared by the 1972-78 work of a Commission for the Fight Against Economic Crime, established by the Federal Department of Justice. These activities in the political sector, the legal profession, and by criminologists were embedded in a social climate and movement that became increasingly mistrustful of powerful economic actors. As reported in the important news media analyzed for this study, the number of critical claims against economic offenders tripled between the early 1960s and the early 1970s and then stabilized. The proportion of citizens who believe that entrepreneurs engage in dirty deals and lack conscience increased from 10 percent in 1965 to 25 percent in 1983. Yet attempts to crimi-

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