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


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.


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.



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.


  1. Abend, G. (2008). The meaning of theory. Sociological Theory, 26, 173–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Akers, R. L. (2011). The origins of me and of social learning theory: Personal and professional recollections. In F. Cullen, F. Jonson, C. Myer, & F. Adler (Eds.), The origins of American criminology (pp. 347–368). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.Google Scholar
  3. Akers, R., & Matsueda, R. (1989). Donald R. Cressey: An intellectual portrait of a criminologist. Sociological Inquiry, 59, 423–438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Alaheto, T., & Persson, O. (2013). The Sutherland tradition in criminology: A bibliometric Story. Criminal Justice Studies, 26, 1–18.Google Scholar
  5. Bacon, F. (1620; 1963). Novum organum. In The complete essays of Francis Bacon. New York: Washington Square Press.Google Scholar
  6. Baker, T. (2015). An evaluation of journal impact factors: A case study of the top three Journals ranked in criminology and penology. The Criminologist, 40, 5–10.Google Scholar
  7. Barak, G. (2015). The Routledge international handbook of the crimes of the powerful. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Baumer, E. (2015). Member perspectives. The Criminologist, 40, 8–10.Google Scholar
  9. Bosworth, M., & Hoyle, C. (Eds.). (2011). What is criminology? Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Bramson, L. (1971). The rise of American sociology. In E. Tiryakian (Ed.), The phenomenon of sociology. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.Google Scholar
  11. Burrough, B. (2004). Public enemies. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  12. Chambliss, W. J. (2004). On the symbiosis between criminal law and criminal behavior. Criminology, 42, 241–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cohen, A. (1983). Interview with Albert Cohen. In J. Laub (Ed.), Criminology in the making: An oral history (pp. 182–203). Boston: Northeastern University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Cohen, A. (1990). Review: The criminology of Edwin Sutherland. Contemporary Sociology, 19, 98–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cohn, E., & Farrington, D. (1994). Who are the most influential criminologists in the English-speaking world? British Journal of Criminology, 34, 204–225.Google Scholar
  16. Cressey, D. (1983). Interview with Donald Cressey. In J. Laub (Ed.), Criminology in the making: An oral history. Boston: Northeastern University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Driver, E. (1960; 1973). Charles Buckman Goring. In H. Mannheim (Ed.) Pioneers in criminology. Montclair, NJ: Patterson Smith.Google Scholar
  18. Filler, L. (1993). The muckrakers. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Friedrichs, D. (1992). White collar crime and the definitional quagmire: A provisional solution. Journal of Human Justice, 3, 5–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Friedrichs, D. (2015). White-collar crime in Europe: American reflections. In J. van Erp, W. Huisman, & G. Vande Walle (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of white-collar and corporate crime in Europe. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. Gaylord, M., & Galliher, J. (1988/1990). The criminology of Edwin Sutherland. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books.Google Scholar
  22. Geis, G. (2007). White-collar and corporate crime. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.Google Scholar
  23. Geis, G., & Goff, C. (1982). Edwin H. Sutherland: A biographical and analytical commentary. In P. Wickman & T. Dailey (Eds.), White-collar crime and economic crime. Toronto: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  24. Gibbons, D. (1979). The criminological enterprise—Theories and perspectives. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  25. Goff, C. (1982) The American criminological tradition. PHD dissertation, University of Pennsylvania.Google Scholar
  26. Goodey, J. (2000). Biographical lessons for criminology. Theoretical Criminology, 4, 473–498.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Goring, C. (1913; 1972). The English convict. Montclair, NJ: Patterson Smith.Google Scholar
  28. Hauhart, R. (2012). Toward a sociology of criminological theory. American Sociologist, 43, 153–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hebberecht, P. (2015). Willem Bonger: The unrecognized European pioneer of the study of White-collar crime. In J. van Erp, W. Huisman, & G. Vande Walle (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of white-collar and corporate crime in Europe. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  30. Hinkle, R., & Hinkle, G. (1954). The development of modern sociology. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  31. Inciardi, J. (1975). Careers in crime. Chicago: Rand McNally.Google Scholar
  32. King, H., & Chambliss, W. (1984). Harry King: A professional thief’s journey. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  33. Knepper, P. (2001). Explaining criminal conduct: Theories and systems in criminology. Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press.Google Scholar
  34. Laub, J., & Sampson, R. (1991). The Sutherland-Glueck debate: On the sociology of criminological knowledge. The American Journal of Sociology, 96, 1402–1440.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lynch, M., Michalowski, R., & Groves, W. (2000). The new primer in radical criminology (3rd ed.). Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press.Google Scholar
  36. Mannheim, H. (1987). Comparative criminology. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  37. Martin, R., Mutchnick, R., & Austin, W. (1990). Criminological thought: Pioneers past and present. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co.Google Scholar
  38. Merton, R. (1938). Social structure and anomie. American Sociological Review, 3, 672–682.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Merton, R. (1997). On the evolving synthesis of differential association and anomie theory: A perspective from the sociology of science. Criminology, 35, 517–525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mills, C. (1943). The professional ideology of social pathologists. American Journal of Sociology, 49, 165–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Ross, E. (1907; 1973). Sin and society. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  42. Ruggiero, V. (2015). Power and crime. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  43. Savelsberg, J., & Flood, S. (2004). Criminological knowledge: Period and cohort effects in scholarship. Criminology, 42, 1009–1041.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schrecker, E. (1998). Many are the crimes: McCarthyism in America. Boston: Little Brown.Google Scholar
  45. Slapper, G., & Tombs, S. (1999). Corporate crime. London: Longman.Google Scholar
  46. Snodgrass, J. (1972). The American criminological tradition: Portraits of the men and ideology in a discipline. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Pennsylvania.Google Scholar
  47. Steffensmeier, D. (1986). The fence: In the shadow of two worlds. Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  48. Steffensmeier, D., & Ulmer, J. (2010). Sutherland, Edwin H.: The professional thief. In F. Cullen & P. Wilcox (Eds.), Encyclopedia of criminological theory, Vol. 2. Los Angeles: Sage.Google Scholar
  49. Storrs, L. (2012). The second red scare and the unmaking of the new deal left. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Sutherland, E. (1916). What rural health surveys have revealed. Monthly Bulletin State Board of Charities and Corrections, 9, 31–37.Google Scholar
  51. Sutherland, E. (1924). Criminology. Philadelphia, PA: J. B. Lippincott Co.Google Scholar
  52. Sutherland, E. (1937). The professional thief. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  53. Sutherland, E. (1940). White-collar criminality. American Sociological Review, 5, 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Sutherland, E. (1945). Is ‘white-collar crime’ crime? American Sociological Review, 10, 132–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sutherland, E. (1949). White collar crime. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.Google Scholar
  56. Sutherland, E. (1950). The sexual psychopath laws. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 40, 543–554.Google Scholar
  57. Sutherland, E. (1973). Crimes of corporations. In K. Schuessler (Ed.), E. H. Sutherland: On analyzing crime (pp. 78–96). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  58. Tappan, P. (1947). Who is the criminal? American Sociological Review, 12, 96–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Valcore, L. (2014). Edwin Sutherland. In J. Albanese (Ed.), The encyclopedia of criminology and criminal justice. Boston: Wiley Blackwell.Google Scholar
  60. Van Bemmelen, J. (1960). Willem Adrian Bonger. In H. Mannheim (Ed.), Pioneers in criminology. Montclair, NJ: Patterson Smith.Google Scholar
  61. Van Erp, J., Huisman, W., & Vande Walle, G. (Eds.). (2015). The Routledge handbook of white-collar and corporate crime in Europe. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  62. Vold, G. (1951). Edwin Hardin Sutherland: Sociological criminologist. American Sociological Review, 16, 2–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wright, R., & Friedrichs, D. (1998). The most-cited scholars and works in critical criminology. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 9, 211–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wright, R., & Rourke, J. (1999). The most-cited scholars and works in criminological theory. In W. Laufer & F. Adler (Eds.), The criminology of criminal law. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology/CriminologyUniversity of ScrantonScrantonUSA

Personalised recommendations