Concept of white collar crime was given by? | Sociology for CUET by Vikash Ranjan | Sociology Guru

White Collar Crime

Question: Concept of white collar crime was given by?

  1. Toynbee
  2. Becker
  3. Sutherland
  4. Merton

Answer: (3)

Edwin Sutherland and the Genesis of the Concept of White Collar Crime

The question posed in the MA CUET exam, concerning the originator of the concept of white-collar crime, leads us to the seminal work of Edwin H. Sutherland. In unraveling the answer, we will explore the historical context, Sutherland’s contributions, the definition of white-collar crime, and the enduring impact of his ideas on criminology.

  1. Edwin H. Sutherland: A Pioneer in Criminology

Edwin Hardin Sutherland, born in 1883, was an American sociologist, criminologist, and a towering figure in the field of sociology during the 20th century. His work traversed various aspects of social behavior, deviance, and criminality, leaving an indelible mark on the discipline of criminology.

  1. The Historical Context of White Collar Crime

The early 20th century witnessed a transformative period in American society marked by industrialization, technological advancements, and a shift towards a service-oriented economy. These changes brought about a new category of crime that deviated from traditional notions of criminal behavior associated with the lower socio-economic strata.

  1. Coining the Term “White Collar Crime”

In 1939, Sutherland introduced the term “white-collar crime” in his presidential address to the American Sociological Association. This address laid the foundation for his subsequent work and crystallized the concept that would redefine the landscape of criminology.

  1. Defining White Collar Crime

Sutherland defined white-collar crime as offenses committed by individuals of high social status and respectability in the course of their occupation. Unlike traditional street crimes, white-collar crimes involve deceit, concealment, or violation of trust and are committed for financial gain. The term “white collar” is metaphorical, symbolizing the attire worn by professionals in office settings.

  1. Characteristics of White Collar Crime:

High Social Status: Perpetrators typically hold positions of trust, authority, or influence within organizations.

Occupational Connection: The crimes are committed within the context of one’s occupation or professional role.

Nonviolent Nature: White-collar crimes are often nonviolent, relying on deception, fraud, or manipulation.

Financial Motivation: Perpetrators aim to achieve financial gains, often through fraudulent schemes or embezzlement.

Complexity: White-collar crimes are often complex and require a level of sophistication, involving financial transactions, corporate structures, or legal intricacies.

  1. Sutherland’s Differentiation of Offenders

One of Sutherland’s significant contributions was his differentiation between traditional offenders from lower socio-economic backgrounds and white-collar offenders. He argued that the crimes committed by individuals of higher social status were distinct, both in terms of their nature and societal impact. This perspective challenged prevailing notions that associated criminality primarily with poverty and lower social strata.

  1. Impact and Critique of Sutherland’s Ideas:

Expanding Criminological Horizons: Sutherland’s concept of white-collar crime expanded the scope of criminology beyond conventional street crimes, prompting scholars to explore crimes within corporate, professional, and institutional settings.

Critique and Controversy: While Sutherland’s ideas gained prominence, they were not without controversy. Some critics argued that the focus on white-collar crime might divert attention from street-level crimes and social inequalities.

Legacy in Criminology: Sutherland’s ideas remain foundational in criminological studies. The study of corporate crime, organizational deviance, and the intersection of law and business has flourished as a result of his pioneering work.

  1. Relevance to the MA CUET Exam:

For MA CUET exam aspirants, a comprehensive understanding of Sutherland’s contributions to criminology and the concept of white-collar crime is crucial. Potential exam questions may include:

Defining White Collar Crime: Candidates may be asked to provide a detailed definition of white-collar crime, emphasizing its characteristics and distinguishing features.

Sutherland’s Differentiation: Questions might explore Sutherland’s rationale for differentiating between traditional offenders and white-collar offenders, and candidates may be expected to critically analyze this perspective.

Impact on Criminology: Exam questions could probe the broader impact of Sutherland’s ideas on the field of criminology, particularly in expanding the understanding of criminal behavior.

Contemporary Relevance: Candidates may be tasked with assessing the contemporary relevance of the concept of white-collar crime in the context of evolving economic and technological landscapes.


In conclusion, Edwin H. Sutherland’s introduction of the concept of white-collar crime represents a paradigm shift in criminology. His groundbreaking work not only coined a term but also challenged prevailing assumptions about criminality, highlighting the importance of examining offenses within the context of high-status occupations. Sutherland’s legacy endures as an integral part of criminological discourse, providing a framework for understanding the complexities of white-collar crime and influencing subsequent generations of scholars and researchers. As aspirants prepare for the MA CUET exam, a thorough grasp of Sutherland’s ideas will undoubtedly enhance their ability to engage with questions related to criminological theories, the evolution of criminal behavior, and the intersection of law and societal structures.


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Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Question: Define the term “ethnic movement” and provide an example from India.

Answer: An ethnic movement refers to a collective effort by a group sharing common cultural, linguistic, or religious traits, seeking to assert their identity and rights; an example from India is the Khalistan Movement in Punjab.

2. Question: Identify the main objectives behind the Gorkhaland ethnic movement.

Answer: The Gorkhaland ethnic movement primarily seeks to establish a separate state for India’s Nepali-speaking population in the Darjeeling region, advocating for linguistic and cultural recognition and political autonomy.

3. Question: What was the Operation Blue Star, and which ethnic movement was it related to?
Answer: Operation Blue Star was a military action in 1984, aiming to remove Sikh militants hiding in the Golden Temple in Amritsar; it is related to the Khalistan movement, which sought a separate Sikh country.

4. Question: Mention a critical factor that triggered the emergence of ethnic movements in India, as discussed by Dipankar Gupta.
Answer: Dipankar Gupta emphasized that ethnicity is fundamentally a political process, wherein caste and religion, the key components of identity formation, are politicized by leaders for vested interests.

5. Question: What were the primary reasons for the Assam Ethnicity conflicts involving Bodo tribals and Bengali Muslim settlers?
Answer: The Assam Ethnicity conflicts primarily stemmed from issues related to immigration, land rights, and resource allocation, leading to clashes, riots, and evolving relationships among indigenous communities to address challenges.

6. Question: Briefly describe the role of the Dravidian Movement in terms of caste and societal structure.
Answer: The Dravidian Movement, led notably by E.V. Ramasamy, aimed to establish an egalitarian society, focusing on anti-Brahmanism and advocating for equal rights for backward castes, while also introducing reforms like self-respect marriages.

7. Question: Name the prominent ethnic movements in North-East India and specify one common objective.
Answer: Prominent ethnic movements in North-East India include the Nagas’ and Mizos’ struggles; a common objective was to gain autonomy and recognition for their distinct tribal identities and cultural uniqueness.

8. Question: What is the key argument of Gail Omveldt regarding traditional Indian society and multiculturalism?
Answer: Gail Omveldt opposed romanticizing traditional Indian society, arguing that hierarchy has always dominated it and dismissing the notion that multiculturalism is an intrinsic feature of Indian society as a myth.

9. Question: Briefly explain the social hierarchy factor as a contributing element to ethnic movements as suggested by Olzak.
Answer: Olzak suggests that the construction of hierarchies among ethnic communities, which often leads to the suppression of one group by another, is a key factor that can instigate social and ethnic movements.

10. Question: Identify one consequence of the unequal economic development factor within the context of ethnic movements in India.
Answer: One consequence of unequal economic development is the marginalization and underdevelopment of certain groups, leading to feelings of alienation and sometimes initiating ethnic movements as these groups strive for equality and recognition.

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