80 years ago today, Edwin Sutherland introduced the phrase “white-collar criminal.” Sutherland, a noted criminologist, coined the phrase in an address—”White-Collar Criminality”—to the American Sociological Association on December 27, 1939.
The speech focused “crime in the upper or white-collar class, composed of respectable or at least respected business and professional men . . . .” Sutherland contended that criminologists were mistaken to tie understandings of criminal behavior to poverty and mental illness, because most of the data on which those criminologists drew excluded studies of white-collar criminals. In a particularly perceptive passage, Sutherland flagged that the social class from within which many white-collar criminals are drawn plays an outsized role in making the laws.
It’s a fascinating read, and I highly recommend it to any interested in one historical snapshot of white-collar crime and its academic study.
Ten years later, Sutherland published a book, White Collar Crime, which also had a tremendous influence in the field.