Structural Limits on State Power to Police Corporate Crime

Kathryn Stout, Dominican University

With the recent wave of corporate crime amounting to billions of dollars of loss to investors, workers, and consumers, there is a parallel erosion of faith in the government's willingness or its ability to control criminal corporate exeutives. president Bush's response, thus far, is based on a traditional understanding of the causes and nature of corporate crime, that is, the policies adopted reflect a belief that corporate crime, like street crime, is an individual, psychological activity which can best be controlled by arresting, prosecuting and sentencing individual violators which, in turn, is supposed to have a general deterrent effect on others. A Challenge to this view is offered by critical criminologist Chambliss's model of the state which focuses on the structural connections between government and corporations, and Calavita's work on the use of "symbolic law" documents the state's attempt to placate public demands that "something must be done", but not to actually effect any significant change in social relations or social power. Based on this model, an analysis of major corporate crime such as that alleged against Enroin, WorldCom, and Arthur Anderson is provided and suggests that due to the many levels and types of partnerships between the U.S. government and big business, policing corporate misconduct is an impossible task.

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Updated 05/20/2006