Critical Criminology

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 183–193 | Cite as

The Roots of Modern White-Collar Crime: Does the Modern Form of White-Collar Crime have its Foundation in the Transition from a Society Dominated by Agriculture to One Dominated by Industry?



The purpose of the present paper is to investigate whether the process of transition from an agricultural to an industrial society was a watershed for white-collar crime, such that this type of crime increased rapidly in connection with the industrialization process. The theoretical reasoning behind this notion is that the transition process promoted a mentality characterized by self-centered values and a culture of competitiveness, which together paved the way for fraud perpetrated at the expense of others. The data are from Statistic Sweden’s historical records and cover the period of 1864–1912. Since there is no way to measure all crimes that can be defined as white collar crime, we have used bankruptcy offences as an example of white collar crime. The results do not support the notion that the transition period from an agricultural to an industrial society showed an increase in bankruptcy offences. Instead, the results show that when fluctuations in the economy are taken into account, the industrialization process per se entailed less bankruptcy offences. On the other hand, other research using the case of Sweden has shown that it was first after World War II that bankruptcy offences increased rapidly. Our argument is that the transition process as a structural mechanism had a greater impact on bankruptcy offences when industrialized capitalism became advanced.


Swedish Society Crime Category Capitalist Transition Feudal Society Swedish Labor 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUmeå UniversityUmeåSweden

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