Studying and Teaching White-Collar Crime: Populist and Patrician Perspectives

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White-collar crime is both an integral part of undergraduate criminology courses and textbooks and the subject of enduring analytic controversy. Much of the latter can be traced to two conflicting but unrecognized conceptual paradigms employed by investigators and teachers when they examine white-collar crime: Populist and Patrician. These perspectives differ in definitional approach to the concept, explicit recognition of the criminality of offenses committed by respectable citizens, how much attention is paid to the victims and costs of white-collar crime, the analytic centrality of criminalization, and the variables and dynamics that purportedly explain variation in offending. Preference for one or the other analytic paradigm to some extent is predictable on the basis of a scholar's educational background, type of institutional placement and disciplinary training. Explicit acknowledgment and pedagogical use of conflicting paradigms hold the potential to enhance students' ability to think critically about white-collar crime. It also makes clear that the disagreements that plague this area of inquiry are deeply rooted and thus are unlikely to be resolved soon.

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