Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 1-18

First online:

Cultural explanation and organizational crime

  • Neal ShoverAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, University of Tennessee
  • , Andy HochstetlerAffiliated withIowa State University

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Both the number and influence of organizations increased dramatically during the 20th century, which helps explain why the problem of organizational crime has received attention from investigators. Growing interest in organizational and corporate crime has been matched by interest in organizational culture. Variation in organizational culture is employed to explain many aspects of organizational performance, from effectivenessin goal attainment to criminal conduct. There are reasons, however, to be critical of theoretical constructions and empirical investigations of organizational culture. There is both considerable ambiguity about its meaning and an implicit assumption of intra-organizational cultural uniformity. Cultural explanations were developed principally in case studies, empirical analyses are flawed, and supportive post hoc interpretations ofinteresting or enigmatic findings are commonplace. The influence of hierarchy and agency as constraints on organizational culture has received insufficient attention. We interpret the appeal of organizational culture despite the absence of demonstrated predictive value, and we call for additional research on sources of variation in organizational crime.