Green, Ward, Buist, and Leighton all offer their own definitions for the terms state crime as well as corporate crime and suggest that the current definitions are very skewed towards the powerless. Leighton even goes as far to design a study showcasing how this can be seen in modern mainstream television throughout the show White Collar. After reading the readings and seeing the many examples that the authors showed backing up their claims, it can easily be seen how the state definitions of crime are biased and insufficient.
With a general understanding of criminology and the many critiques that are often raised by the authors, I find it appropriate to offer my definitions for the many terms that were brought up throughout the chapters. Let’s begin with the word state crime. I think a very general definition of the term can be any criminal act, where the state is the perpetrator, that directly violates any criminal or civil law. Moving on, the term hegemony in my opinion can be defined as one persons rule or control over another. Next, organized deviance vs. individual deviance can be defined as a deviant act committed by either a group of people working together or committed by a singular actor. Lastly, the term state corporate deviance can be defined as a deviant act committed where the perpetrators are a collusion between the state and a corporation.
There are many ways that these terms are all skewed to make it look like criminal acts are predominantly committed by the powerless. For example, an overall theme that Green and Ward suggest is that the deciders of laws are more often than not people in power. The authors write, “if states define what is criminal, a state can only be criminal on those rare occasions where it denounces itself for breaking its own laws” (Green & Ward, 2004). With this, one will notice that this is only true for such entities like the state because if a powerless person commits a criminal offense, they are targeted and told they violated a law by agents of the state. Because there is little, if any, government agency devoted to investigating crimes committed by such actors like the state, it makes sense why the only way the state can be criminal is when they “tattle” on themselves and as a part of human nature, this is very rare and thus infers that the powerless are the only criminals. Additionally, Green and Ward suggest that the powerful and particularly the state are entitled to do things that the powerless can not. They write, “all states claim an entitlement to do things which if anyone else did them would constitute violence and extortion” (Green & Ward, 2004). Because of this, it becomes apparent that the definitions above suggest that the powerless are more or less exploited by the state and that the powerful are able to do things simply because their status in society. As a result of this, it is reasonable to say that the definitions of crime are skewed towards the powerless.
Often times human rights are used as a standard to broaden the definition of crime. Green and Ward suggest this in chapter one defining state crime as, “state organizational deviance involving violations of human rights” (Green & Ward, 2004). Though this can be true sometimes, I do not believe that it always is and rather further suggests that the only crimes that exist are committed by the powerless. In my opinion, this can be seen because the only crimes that violate human rights are those that are violent crime (murder and rape for example). Adding this to the definition, suggests that the crimes of the powerful do not exist as frequently as they actually do. I think this because such crimes like embezzlement, fraud, and tax evasion are serious white collar offenses frequently committed but they do not violate anybody’s human rights. By suggesting that a crime is a crime only when it violates someone’s human rights, it simply undermines the crimes committed by the powerful and fails to account for such offenses that are a crime, regardless of whether or not someone’s human rights are violated or not.
Buist and Leighton’s study on the show White Collar exemplifies perfectly how the definition of crime can be manipulated by those in power. The show White Collar airs on USA Network, which is owned by General Electronics- a very powerful company making products in almost every industry possible. Because of this, the creators of the show always focus on street crimes rather than white collar crimes (despite the name) because if they chose to examine actual white collar crimes, then a light would be shown on the many violations that the General Electronics is actually committing. An example of this that the authors examine can be seen on page 81 where the authors examine what would would occur if the show were to examine white collar crimes that were “ripped from the headlines.” They write, “if White Collar produced ripped from the headlines episode about Pfizer, the plot could help dramatize how illegal marketing means higher costs for health insurance and taxpayers as people are prescribed drugs they do not need and suffer harm from the side effects of drugs…But GE makes MRI’s and other medical equipment, so it is not in their interest to shine light on pharmaceutical companies and doctors who are important customers” (Buist & Leighton's, 2015). As a result of this, the powerful companies set the standard by only showcasing crimes that people know about and that do not make them look bad, thus skewing the definition in their favor.
Overall, I find the find the definition of crimes to be geared towards the powerless and I strongly agree that this occurs as a result of those in power typically explaining what is a crime and what is not. The study conducted by Buist & Leighton's further shows a modern portrayal of this perfectly.