One of the important critical criminology perspective is the need for greater focus to be trained on corporate crimes and crimes committed by powerful people. Sykes (1974) pointed out that in the 1960s, there was a shift in sociological perspectives towards crime and criminal behaviour. It was felt that “people in positions of power had traditionally been analyzed in terms of bureaucratic roles aimed at the rational accomplishment of organizational objectives. In reality, people in positions of power were motivated largely by their own selfish interests” (Sykes, 1974, p.206). Thus, the need to understand and evaluate crimes committed by the rich and the powerful. Such crimes are also sometimes referred to as ‘white collar’ crimes due to the direct connection between the crime and economic motivations. At times, white collar crime may also be described as violation of regulatory laws or a workplace deviance (Payne, 2016).
White Collar Crime was first defined by sociologist Edwin Sutherland in 1939 as "a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation” (Payne, 2016). Sutherland wanted to call attention to the fact that crimes are committed by individuals of all classes. He appealed to criminologists at that time to give due attention to the crimes committed by the upper class. This begs a question- why should there be a greater focus on the crimes committed by the upper class or the powerful?
Corporate crime does have the potential to affect a vast number of people. For instance, Ponzi scheme is an investment fraud involving taking payments from people with false promises of returns. This can have impact on a large number of investors. Mortgage fraud involves borrowers taking loans based upon false information. Many businesses indulge in this fraud with the intention of borrowing money from banks and other lenders.
Barak (2015) writes about the globalisation of crime, where he says that the rich and powerful play a very important role and that the actions of these powerful criminals have macro economic global ramifications. He categorises such crimes as (1) crimes of globalization, (2) corporate crimes (3) environmental crimes, (4) financial crimes, (5) state crimes, (6) state-corporate crimes, and (7) state-routinized crimes (Barak, 2015, p.108). In spite of the impact of such crimes, Barak (2015, p.105) writes that the crimes of the powerful have managed to avoid or escape both the criminalization and stigmatization that should come with these legal and illegal violations of both civil and human rights. This is the result of the lack of focus on the crimes committed by the powerful people. Corporate crime is a serious issue. The Enron scandal, which is cited as the biggest audit failure in American history. At the time, it was declared bankrupt, Enron owed billions of dollars to its employees and shareholders, who never really received their losses. That shows the magnitude of the impact that Enron had on the lives of thousands of people. It is undeniable that the crimes committed by those who are in position of power are impactful on the society.Therefore, criminology should be more oriented towards corporate crime and the crimes of the powerful.
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