Conflict theory primarily argues that it is the economic system of capitalism itself that produces crime however, in order to understand the causes of corporate crime, the neoliberal framework and its utilization must be examined. Neoliberalism accords the state not to intervene or regulate the market, and in effect produces inequality but most importantly crime. Criminal acts are committed by the elites that are following the core of the neoliberal doctrine which is maximizing profits while minimizing costs.
Corporate crimes are committed by executives or executive officers n behalf of corporations to further their own interests or the interest of the organizations’. These crimes can result in harming the working class which may consist of employees, consumers, stockholders, or the general public (Snider, 2005; pg 170). These crimes vary from marketing unsafe products, maintaining unsafe workplaces, defrauding workers, environmental pollution, price fixing, anti-trust violations and other malpractices (Passas, 2005; pg 773).
The analysis and understandings of the causes to corporate crime is crucial to Criminology because it costs society severely and entails; physical costs, financial costs, environmental amage, undermines the democratic system and undermines economic growth. However, these crimes remain unpunished because neoliberal knowledge claims allow these acts to remain invisible, unregulated, neutralized, difficult to prosecute, ambiguous in the law and in criminal status and have a lack of responsibility.
Marxism hypothesizes that society is structured based upon the relationship of people to the production of material goods. In other words, those who own the means of production also control the works, politicians as well as the development of criminal and economic law. Following the Marxist perception, this essay will argue that corporate crime is not caused but rather it is a by-product of the neoliberal framework elites govern society by.
THE POWER OF THE NEOLIBEARL DOCTRINE To begin with, the neoliberal framework was designed to benefit individuals and organizations of elite status which allowed them to gain independence and power from the state. This then allows them to engage in criminal activites and Justify them as responding to competitive forces from the market. Neoliberalism accords the government an active role in securing and producing the conditions for the market ut disagrees strongly with government intervention Codi, 2008; pg 67), which means the markets must be ‘set free’ to follow their internal logic which is profit.
This means that in order to cut costs; the most inexpensive means may be an illegal means. Key elites in the New World economy have invested billions of dollars, reputations and the power of nation states in obtaining certain interpretations (of laws, issues, scientific data) accepted and others rejected – these claims are called neoliberal knowledge claims (Snider, 2005; pg 181). Furthermore, they push for certain nterpretation of laws of how to govern the market in accordance with the neoliberal privileges in a number of ways.
For example, interpreting scientific data in ways that ‘prove’ genetically engineered plants are safe, “is worth a trillion dollars to the transnational companies that hold the patents on this genetic material and to the nation-states which grantee their legitimacy’ (Snider, 2005; pg 181). On the other hand, inequality is more closely related to the acceptance of the neoliberal ideology and it’s allied ideology of globalization; for instance, “employees frightened of losing heir Jobs to third world works are more likely to accept lower wage Jobs, unsafe work conditions and higher levels of exploitation” (Snider, 2004; pg 266).
The neoliberal framework (that encourages pro-business behaviour) allows corporations to utilize whatever means possible in order to maximize profits which may result in exploiting the working class in a countless number of ways; from inducing them to consume harmful products to forcing them to succumb to unsafe working conditions. This result in a conflict between the culture of competition and ethical standards however, orporations are not like humans they are artificial legal entities with perpetual life chartered by the government for their existence (Nadar, 2004; pg 8).
Corporations have achieved a status where they have all constitutional rights that people have except the right against self-incrimination. Corporations engage in criminal activites on a number of different levels that harm and affect the general public however, the public for the most part remains unaware of these activites because these elites invest in hiding the truth which thereby renders their actions invisible. THE INVISBALITY OF COPRORATE CRIME Secondly, Marxists argue that is it the connected ability of the powerful to manipulate values of society which is why corporate crimes are rendered invisible.
Academics find it difficult to analyze corporate crime because large scale survey data is not available so researchers have to rely on non-objective crime statistics collected by ‘impartial’ government agencies such as StatsCan or the Home Office which usually yield tiny samples (Snider, 2005; pg 186). Corporations do not want sociologist investigating their business practises, unlike traditional offenders they have the ability to resist such incursions.
On the other hand, the Justice department for the most part has an inadequate budget for investigated let alone prosecuting corporate crimes. Police agencies cannot keep up with the geographic bounders of victimization, the mobility of the offenders and the complexities of the crimes because they usually involve investigating and prosecuting at the same time and also extensive knowledge of the corporate infrastructure which policing agencies, for a reason, are not equipped for (Schlegel et al. 1999; pg 15). According to Marxism, the law is developed and implemented by the elites to control the working class and rime is a product of class-based inequality, the policing agencies are funded by the government which are heavily influenced by the elites therefore, conflict theory asserts that criminal law is designed to target the working class in order to protect the interests of the elites.
Conversely, unlike street crime there is a general lack of media attention with regards to corporate Wrongdoings’ however, in the rare instance that these cases are nature (Williams, 2008; pg 474) these are neutralizations, which purposely overlooking their status as crimes. Business culture from the neoliberal framework ot only provides incentives to engage in illicit activites but also contains justifications that can be used to neutralize ethical restraints; this is part of the neoliberal knowledge claims.
For instance, when corporate Wrongdoings’ do surface to the public’s attention they are quickly neutralized as accidents, isolated episodes, bad apples or voluntary consent. Accidents are portrayed as unintended, unanticipated and unavoidable events that could not be reasonably prevented (Williams, 2009-04-21). ‘Isolated episodes’ are when organizations or individuals momentarily depart from their usual ethical behaviours and engage in criminal ctivites (Williams, 2009-04-21).
In addition, ‘bad apples’ is a theory of corruption that asserts the problem of an individual engaging in misconduct rather than the department as a whole, which means a lack of responsibility (Williams, 2008; pg 476). Last, voluntary consent is a neutralization for harms inflicted on employees that work in dangerous industries, the harms are neutralized by stating that those employees consented to those risks and conditions however, the company may not have fully disclose all the risks and harms (Williams, 2009-04-21).
Corporate crime is systemic owever; its ability to neutralize its criminal activity and characterize it as rare accidents or uncommon wrongdoings allows it to continue without question. In addition to neutralizations, in the rare event that corporate crime is prosecuted, one of the most common ways of differentiated corporate crime from street crime is to point at the lack of Mens Rea which is the criminal intent to inflict harm (Schlegel et al. , 1999; pg 17).
Nevertheless, clear conscious decisions are made when cutting back on workplace safety budgets, quality control funding etc. with the knowledge hat with these decisions human life may be harmed however, because corporations are seen as impersonal, faceless and complex entities which results in a lack of responsibility and therefore the harms are dismissed because there is no definitive way of knowing whether the intent was there. Moreover, because elites have the resources and are finically equipped they invest in hiding these truths.
THE FAILURE OF REGULATION Moreover, the neoliberal framework asserts that the market remain deregulated, with that deregulation, corporations continue to engage in criminal activites until hey accumulate imbalances that contribute to finical crisis’, the government must then intervene with regulations however, those regulations are quickly removed by corporate influence. History of regulation in Canada was weak from its initial attempt at regulating the market.
To start with, Canada’s Combines Investigation Act was designed to prevent competition in the market and to do so it criminalized corporate monopolies (companies that dominant specific products or services in the market), mergers and price discrimination. However, the legislation was weak because no rosecutions against corporations were registered, it never received adequate funding or enforcement and each attempt to strengthen it was strongly opposed by the elites (Snider, 2005; pg 173).
This act lasted for over 96 years until 1969 when the Interim Report on Competition Policy was created and its policy implications were act it had little political support due to the political pressures from corporations (Snider, 2005; pg 174). For the next 10 years, several versions of the Bill were created and each weaker than the last finally in 1976 attempts at reforming laws that govern he market were abandoned (Snider, 2005; pg 174).
In 1984, the Conservative government was elected with the new Prime Minister Brian Mulroney; following the neoliberal doctrine he denounced the ‘anti-American’ and ‘anti-business’ stance that the previous Canadian laws attempted to accomplish and created the Competition Act (Snider, 2005; pg 175). This Bill encompassed the neoliberal ideology, it compelled the government to create the conditions necessary for market exchange, it promoted competitiveness and enhanced business prosperity however to do this, mergers, monopolies and price discrimination was decriminalized.
On the other hand, influential Criminologist Edwin Sutherland advanced the concept of corporate crime that not only revealed new types of crime but it also threatened to expose the traditional myth of the neutrality of the law (Shover et al. , 2006; pg 78). He pointed to the role of privileged and their power in shaping of the law as well the existence ofa double standard of Justice in the implementation of the law, with regards to benefitting the upper-class and controlling the lower class offenders.
This concept raised the basic question about the nature of law and the intentions of the criminal ustice system. Furthermore, the neoliberal framework furthers the prevalence of “greed, the systemic nature of corporate corruption, the necessity of regulation and the inherent instability of the capitalist mode of production” (Williams, 2008; pg 472) that creates discernable forms of ‘real’ harm.
The neoliberal doctrine pushes for the failure of regulation in market societies which allows corporations to create their own governing through political influence and suitable environments for their malpractices. In addition, the Neoliberal doctrine has provided the means for corporate entities o gain insurmountable powers and influence in the political and economic realm; this allows them to keep the market and their behaviour unregulated and decriminalized.
The main reason why their criminal practises remain legal and respected is that these industries have the ability to mobilize financial, political as well as other resources in order to avoid stricter regulation (Passas, 2005; pg 772), Furthermore, the globalization of markets (the dismantling of trade barriers between nations and the integration of economies Oodi, 2008; pg 17)) is another component of he neoliberal framework and it furthers the fragmentation of regulation.
The more a corporation grows into new geographic areas, the less subjected it is to control, accountability and supervision. An example of this is the use of child labour in developing countries that export the manufactured goods to developed countries, the same countries that criminalize that practise (Passas, 2005; pg 775). This demonstrates the double standard set by capitalist’s nation-states whereas the laws that are created to criminalize these practises are only applicable when it is not in he best interest of these corporate entities.
In contrast, ‘over regulation’ and ‘government interference’ in corporate business practises are claimed to be rendered uncompetitive or unprofitable, so when governments assert some form of regulation, thereby negatively affecting local communities or the whole country (Passas, 2005; pg 777). Corporations threaten governments by downsizing and taking their business elsewhere- to a less regulated state, therefore governments must obey these demands because they have become so dependent on their services, employment, and financial contributions to the economy.
Furthermore, the government not only allows them to remain unregulated but corporations also activity participate in defining and legalization their own criminality. Ironically, when policy makers and legislatures, “write laws outlawing rape, burglary, armed robbery, larceny and theft they do not consult or negotiate with the criminals who committed those crimes” (Kappeler et al. , 2005; pg 160) but when legislatures enact laws in regulating corporations they actively seek input and advice from those they seemingly are setting out to punish thus, decriminalizing corporate Wrongdoings’.
Also, the laws that have been created to ‘criminalize’ illegal acts by corporations are made to be so complex and full of loop holes that they are almost impossible to enforce. Decriminalization is the successful reduction of restriction, oversight thereby permitting individuals and organizations to operate with greater latitude (Snider, 2005; pg 83). Decriminalization in relation to corporate crime occurs daily, privileged and powerful interests have been successful in revising the internal revenue code to their advantage, leading to a substantially increased share of the tax burden shifted o the working class citizens (Snider, 2005; pg 85).
This close relationship of the state and corporate criminals illustrates the state regulation of traditional crime while punishments for corporate criminals are being eliminated; incarceration rates for traditional blue-collar criminals are doubling. The working class are criminalized because of the inequality and brutalization of low wages and the frequent threat of unemployment. Prison which is seen as the control tool for the working class is both a material deterrent and an ideological weapon (Schlegel et al. 1999; pg 96) of the apitalist state ensuring the suppression of threats from below. The power gained by corporations allows them to strongly influence governments in relation to criminal law and policy making but most importantly making them dependant on corporations for their services. CATERING TO CORPORATE NEEDS Additionally, governments have now become so dependent on corporations for their economies that, “employers are considered to be doing governments favour merely by setting up shop” (Snider, 2005; pg 171).
This means that nations and their subunits compete to offer business’ the best tax breaks, the highest subsides, the owest minimum wage levels and the least regulation (Passas, 2005; pg 775). The decriminalization of once illegal activites attracted international and fortune 500 companies to set up shop in Canada, shortly after these corporations convinced governments into massive privatization, keeping minimum wage at its lowest form possible with regards to inflation, decertifying unions as well as a variety of other exploitation and harms to the Canadian working class.
The organizations that engage in what used to be called corporate crime seem to now be responded by reasoned persuasion, rewards with tax breaks and market incentives. Harsher punishments fill and overfill the prisons of modern capitalist societies (Snider, 2005; pg 174). Contrastingly, in an attempt for the government to appear fair to all its citizens, it has created laws that can be used by the non-capitalist class to protect themselves against the powerful such as: anti-trust monopoly laws, consumer laws, progressive tax and factory safety laws.
However there is an immense struggle to have those laws evoked in the working class’ interest (Schlegel et al. , 1999; pg 98). Contrary to common assumption that these legal practises and industries are beneficial to society; as llustrated by the government catering to corporate needs, society is actually worse off by allowing certain operations and practises to continue. In a sense, the more these industries flourish the more societies fail for the non-capitalist citizens.
Lastly, the neoliberal stronghold that drives elite behaviour has taken grasp of government officials, policy makers and politicians to further their own personal gains. To ensure corporate interests corporations need to obtain ‘access’; this is done through social contracts, personal favours, paid lobbyists and monetary contributions . The privileged gain the access needed to ensure their perspectives are known and taken seriously by political leaders and state managers (Shover et al. , 2006; pg 87).
Then, these politicians make sure that the public is aware of the contributions and higher quality of life they receive by the presence and services of these industries. Critics say that one of the key reasons to why corporate crime is not pursued; is the all to close relationship between the financial regulators and the finical industry this is because many of the leaders in the securities commissions ome from the financial industry or were lawyers that previously served them (Schlegel et al. , 1999; pg 15).
An example of this close relationship; a real-estate investor saw that a company that he had invested in was committing fraudulent crimes, he decided to report this to the Ontario Securitas Commission (OSC) and a sister company the Investors Dealers Association (IDA) [ a combination of up banks and brokerages]. The realtor realized that the one of the men he was reporting to about the fraudulent crimes was the same man that was committing those crimes nd was a member of the IDA (CBC Sunday Night, 2008- 11-23). It was concluded that the people he was complaining to were the same people that were the problem.
Another instance of this relationship is of David Wilson who is now presently head of the Ontario Securitas Commission (OSC); he was previously the chief executive officer of the bank of Nova Scotia (who is guarding your money? ). Presently, Canada has a patch work of 13 regulators, provincially and other self-regulating watchdogs that attempt to regulate the markets of Canada (Biggs et al. , 2003; pg 3). They all regulate ndependently of one another and have different policies on regulation, this shows that there is no serious attempt at regulating the markets of Canada.
Arguably, the credit crisis that we are seeing recently in Wall Street had already happened in Canada but did not receive publicity because the securities regulation system in Canada works with the investment industry to cover up its own bad behaviour and fraudulent activities (CBC Sunday Night, 2008- 11-23). According to Bay street analysts, “it is estimated that Canadian investors loose $20 billion a year in fraud” but are unaware of it (Zedner, 2006; pg 5). Moreover, politicians have been bought by fraudulent activity turns out to be working with those that commit those crimes.
In summary, criminal law works, is the message, and harsher criminal law works best. However when it comes to crimes of marketing unsafe products, maintaining unsafe workplaces, defrauding workers, dumping toxic waste, misrepresenting the benefits or not disclosing the risks of products- criminal law does not work. According to Marxism, this is because criminal law is created to protect the interests of the elite and to control the working class from breaking out of the cycle of nequality created by the capitalist neoliberal claims.
Breaking out of the cycle or disobeying its elements means committing a crime, criminal law is then a form of social control. Deviance and crime represent conflicts in society which are managed by the suppression of the ‘ruled by the rulers’. The public is unaware of the crimes because of the massive lobbying by corporations, elite investment in scientific, sociological and political knowledge claims, neutralizations of corporate incidents, decriminalization of corporate Wrongdoings’ and the generally invisibility of corporate crime.
This then leads the public to believe that corporate crime is not a threat to society or their means of living. Also, the rare incidents that are available to public knowledge are deemed as ‘natural’ incidents that occur from time to time because of the competitive nature of neoliberal capitalism. Conversely, elites have invested in convincing the public that ‘street crimes’ are committed by the working class; and are imminent threats to society therefore, need deterrent action in order to maintain the quality of life in capitalist societies.
Neoliberal claims further the rowth of corporations allowing them to participate in creating the laws that govern their activites; these claims have swayed politicians, market watch dogs, policy makers and governments. By this governments favour corporate actors because of the economic gains they will obtain for personal interests rather than providing a decent minimum wages, quality working conditions, safe products etc. for the working class.
This proves that corporate crimes are a by-product of the neoliberal capitalism framework rather than having specific causes and this claim is an important tool for Criminology in order to understand corporate crime. The neoliberal ideology that has been adapted by elites and politicians ensures that the illegal and criminal acts that corporations commit remain invisible. From this essay, it has been noted that criminal law is used by corporate actors and politicians in order to maintain social order and suppress the working class.
However, in a larger context and using the Marxist perception; how have laws and criminal Justice, as forms of social control, been used to contain class struggle and maintain class divisions at different times in different societies? Biggs, C. , Coleman R. (2003). Rules and Prevarications. CMA Management, 7(3) 1-20. CBC Sunday Night. (Nov. 23, 2008) “Who is guarding your money? ” CBC, Toronto. Dean, Jodi (2008). Enjoying Neoliberalism. Cultural Politics 4(1), 47-72. Kappeler, V. , Potter, G. (2005).
The Mythology of Crime and Criminal Justice (4th Ed. ). Illinois: Waveland Press Inc. (Course Text) Nadar, Ralph (2004). Legislating Corporate Ethics. Journal of Legislation, 30, 193-204. Passas, Nikos (2005). Lawful but Awful: ‘Legal Corporate Crimes’. The Journal of Socio- Economics, 34, 771-786 Schlegel, K. , Weisburd, D. (1999). White-Collar Crimes Reconsidered (Revised Ed). Boston: Northeastern. Shover, N. , Hochstetler, A. (2006). Choosing White-Collar Crime. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Snider, Laureen (2000). Sociology of Corporate Crime: An obituary. Theoretical Criminology, 4(2), 169-206. Snider, Laureen (2004). Resisting Neo-Liberalism. Social and Legal Studies, 13(2), 265-289 Williams, James (2008). The Lessons of ‘Enron’. Theoretical Criminology, 12(4), 471-499. Williams, James (2009) “White-Collar Crime l. ” Criminology. York University. (Lecture) Zedner, Lucia (2006). Liquid Security: Managing the Market for Crime Control. Criminology and Criminal Justice, 6(3), 276-288.