The general strain theories, proposed by Robert Agnew examine the different types of strain that individuals face, and their relation to crime. Strains refer to the conditions, which an individual does not like, such as the individual’s inability to attain his or her goals, threatened loss of a positive stimulus, such as material possessions, and the threatened presentation of a stimulus perceived negatively. Some strains are more common in street crime. However, economic and status related crimes are more common, and are the major contributions of white-collar crimes (Langton & Piquero, 2007). Individuals who face the inability of achieving goals will have a tendency to commit white-collar crimes such as embezzlement and fraud. Such individuals are also more likely to commit corporate crimes ad occupational offending (Simpson & Weisburd, 2009). In the documentary, “Capitalism: A Love Story”, Michael Moore examines the effects of capitalism, and the ills and problems that plague the society because of capitalism. The documentary exposes the American greed and ambition, which has been propelled by the need to achieve economic goals and achieve the American dream. Both individuals and corporations portray this greed. Capitalism has played a major role in contributing to the problems that people experience as they try to achieve their goals and dreams.
Strains refer to the threatened presentation of a stimulus, which the individuals perceive negatively. Lack of resources and inability to provide for oneself are some of the stimuli, which the individual perceive negatively. The thieves in the beginning of the movie face economic problems, and they are not in a position to realize their goals, thus their reason for committing crime. Higher-class individuals in the society have the most resources. However, they will result to using other means, which include crime, when they are threatened by losses, such as the loss of business or status.
The American economic system is a capitalist system, whereby the individual is expected to find his own ways and means of getting wealth. This system encourages all people, regardless of their economic status to find ways of achieving their goals. Even the wealthy within the society have their own individual goals to accomplish, and therefore, they will look for ways of accumulating more wealth. They are able to manipulate the system since they have the means of doing so. The movie details how, many people lost their homes and jobs, especially during the recession. The need for corporations to secure profits led to these problems. The banks could not stand making a loss, and therefore, they reposed people’s homes. Corporations could not continue making profits, and they made the decision of laying-off workers.
The fear of loss and lack of profitability were the main strains, which the corporations faced. The documentary highlights the banks as institutions, which take people’s money. They are compared to the bank robbers, the only difference between the two, being that the banks are legal in the eyes of the law. Despite the actions of the banks in seizing people’s property, as they closed their homes, the government bailed them out, and the CEOs in these banks received hefty paychecks even after their banks underperformed.
Many corporations set goals which they hope to accomplish within a specified time. The main goal of corporations is to increase their profitability. The increased competition between different organizations within the same industry is the strain that the corporations have to undergo, as it puts pressure on the organization to perform. Businesses and companies will manipulate the system in whatever way they can to ensure that they achieve their objectives (Benson & Simpson, 2009). White-collar crime includes corporate crime, which benefit the company rather than the individual. Capitalism has contributed to incidences of white-collar crime, because of the control and influence, which the wealthy have. The wealthy own most of the resources in the country, and they are able to achieve the goals of the corporation. Their possession can determine the way the country’s economy runs. This enables them to determine the rules of economic gain. They own corporations, which employ many people, and which are part of the different stock exchanges. Some of the CEOs in these companies received hefty paycheck, and their companies received a lot of bailout money. This money is part of the contribution from the taxpayers.
The general strain theory recognizes the presence of crime in the upper class as this is not the problem of the lower class only. White-collar crime differs from the street crime and from other crimes because of the high esteem and respectability of the person who has committed the crime. People who commit white-collar crime do not seem in a position of need or lack, and they often have the trust of the people, such as the employees working for them. Many would not consider the recent activities at the banks as white-collar crimes. However, the banks and the corporations received bail out money after they had failed to perform. They ended up terminating many people’s employment and foreclosing many people’s homes. The people had provided the bail out money for the institutions, through their taxes. The CEOs of the respective banks continued to receive huge salaries despite the lack of performance of their institutions.
Benson, L. M., & Simpson, S. S. (2009). White-collar crime: An opportunity perspective. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis
Langton, L., & Piquero, L. N. (2007). Can general strain theory explain white-collar crime? A preliminary investigation of the relationship between strain and select white-collar offences. Journal of Criminal Justice 35, (1), 1-15
Simpson, S. S., & Weisburd, D. (2009). The criminology of white-collar crime. New York, NY: Springer