U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Ontological Boundaries and Temporal Watersheds in the Development of White-Collar Crime

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 46 Issue: 6 Dated: November 2006 Pages: 976-992
John P. Locker; Barry Godfrey
Date Published
November 2006
17 pages
This paper identifies the period 1750-1850 as a watershed in the history of workplace and white-collar crime, as it explains changes in the nature and perception of employee theft and occupational economic offenses.
By the 18th century, the practice of workers retaining a portion of the goods entrusted to them in the course of their work (usually goods deemed to be waste products in manufacturing) had become widespread and generally accepted; however, the scope of this practice was eventually recognized by employers as a significant threat to their profits. Manufacturers began to look to the legislature to terminate the traditional employee right to keep materials to which they had no ownership claim. From the mid-18th century on, there was a sustained legal attack against workers taking employer property accessible to them in the course of their work. For the first time, employee appropriation of any employer property became criminalized, and the workplace became a crime scene susceptible to police intervention. Criminological research has highlighted the widespread persistence of employee theft (the "hidden economy") far beyond the 19th century. By the 19th century, the development and expansion of business brought new opportunities for economic crimes at all levels of business operations. The increasing size of business and manufacturing enterprises significantly reduced the ability of employers to monitor employee actions in the workplace. Also, employers and employees rarely had personal contact, which tended to undermine the development of personal bonds of trust and mutual respect. This reduced conditions that facilitated informal social control. 74 references


No download available