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Critical Criminology

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 55–69 | Cite as

Edwin H. Sutherland: An Improbable Criminological Key Thinker—For Critical Criminologists and for Mainstream Criminologists

  • David O. Friedrichs
Article

Abstract

Edwin H. Sutherland’s status as a key thinker among criminologists—for many critical criminologists as well as mainstream criminologists—is addressed, with special attention to the various dimensions of his background that render this status highly improbable. Sutherland’s principal contributions to criminology are identified along with the limitations of these contributions. While Sutherland is especially known for his theory of differential association, his own history suggests that “influence” broadly conceived is complex and idiosyncratic and does not lend itself well to straightforward prediction, hence a “theory” of differential influence (applying differential quite differently from Sutherland) is advanced. Some attention is devoted to contemporaries or near contemporaries (including the Dutch Marxist Willem Bonger) of Sutherland in relation to why their influence has been more limited than that of Sutherland. Criminological “influence” is complex, and not easily testable. A closing section identifies some typically overlooked radical observations of Sutherland’s.

Keywords

White Collar Crime Differential Association Critical Criminologist Social Pathologist White Collar Offender 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgments

The author appreciates the encouraging take on this manuscript by the editor of this journal, as well as conscientious comments by anonymous reviewers of his submission. He wishes to thank Tom Sutton of Routledge for inviting him to produce a book on Sutherland, which prompted the author to begin thinking more fully about Sutherland and his legacy. He also wishes to thank three anonymous reviewers of his book proposal for their helpful and encouraging comments. Rob Sampson, John Laub, Henry Pontell, and Rob White were all also encouraging about a Sutherland project when the author spoke with them about it at a meeting of the Asian Criminological Society in Hong Kong in June, 2015, or at the American Society of Criminology Meeting in Washington, D.C., November, 2015. Finally, this article is dedicated to Richard Quinney. I took my first course on Criminology with Richard a half-century ago—in 1966—with Sutherland and Cressey’s Principles of Criminology as the assigned textbook. Richard was the single most important influence on my criminological career, including my long-standing engagement with the crimes of the powerful. He has been for me, as he has been for countless other critical criminologists, a seminal source of on-going inspiration.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

This paper was not funded by a grant. I have some on-going Distinguished Professor funding which supports my scholarly research. I can think of no conflicts of interest involved in this submission.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology/CriminologyUniversity of ScrantonScrantonUSA

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