Sociology Index

Edwin Hardin Sutherland

Edwin Hardin Sutherland was an American sociologist. He is considered as one of the most influential criminologists of the 20th century. Edwin Hardin Sutherland was a sociologist of the symbolic interactionist school of thought and is best known for defining white-collar crime and differential association, a general theory of crime and delinquency. Sutherland earned his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago in 1913.

Sutherland's historical importance rests upon his having introduced "The White Collar Criminal" and the concept of white-collar crime, a concept which violated existing prejudices that aristocrats can do no wrong. Edwin Hardin Sutherland was elected president of the American Sociological Society in 1939, and president of the Sociological Research Association in 1940. Edwin Hardin Sutherland was one among distinguished sociologists.

After receiving his PhD from the University of Chicago, Sutherland was at William Jewell College, Missouri (1913–1919), the University of Kansas (the summer of 1918), University of Illinois (1919–1925), Sutherland spent a summer at Northwestern (June–August 1922) prior to arriving at the University of Minnesota in 1925.

Edwin Hardin Sutherland built his reputation as one of the country's leading criminologists at the University of Minnesota, where he worked from 1926 to 1929. Edwin Hardin Sutherland concentrated in sociology as a scientific enterprise whose goal was to understand and control social problems. For several months in 1929 Sutherland studied the British penal system while in England.

During 1929–1930 Sutherland worked as a researcher with the Bureau of Social Hygiene in New York City. In 1930, Sutherland accepted a position as a research professor at the University of Chicago. In 1935 he took a position at Indiana University, where he remained till his untimely death on October 11, 1950. He founded the Bloomington School of Criminology at Indiana University. During his time at Indiana, he published four books, including Twenty Thousand Homeless Men (1936), The Professional Thief (1937), the third edition of Principles of Criminology (1939), and the censored first edition of White Collar Crime (1949), his masterpiece.

White Collar Crime remained censored until the original text was published in 1983 by Yale University Press. America's largest corporations threatened to sue the publishers of White Collar Crime and they had all references to the names of litigating corporations removed from the text. When Yale University Press issued the unexpurgated version in 1983, the introduction by Gilbert Geis noted that Sutherland's concept of white-collar crime "altered the study of crime throughout the world in fundamental ways."

He was the author of the leading text Criminology, published in 1924, first stating the principle of differential association in the third edition retitled Principles of Criminology in 1939, that the development of habitual patterns of criminality arise from association with those who commit crime rather than with those who do not commit crime. The theory also had a structural element positing that conflict and social disorganisation are the underlying causes of crime.

Edwin Hardin Sutherland remained convinced that social class was a relevant factor, coining the phrase white-collar criminal. In his 1949 monograph White-Collar Criminology he defined a white-collar crime "approximately as a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation."