Criminal entrepreneurship, white‐collar criminality, and neutralization theory

Petter Gottschalk, Robert Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to apply neutralization theory to white‐collar criminals to discuss criminal entrepreneurship.

Design/methodology/approach – The theoretical framework of neutralization techniques is applied to criminal entrepreneurship and white‐collar criminality.

Findings – A legal entrepreneur is a person who operates a new enterprise or venture and assumes some accountability for the inherent risk. Similarly, the criminal entrepreneur's task is to discover and exploit opportunities, defined most simply as situations in which there are a profit to be made in criminal activity.

Research limitations/implications – Examples of criminal entrepreneurship committed by otherwise legal entrepreneurs are commonly labeled as white‐collar criminality. This paper discusses how criminal entrepreneurship by white‐collar criminals can be explained by neutralization theory, as white‐collar criminals tend to apply techniques of neutralization used by offenders to deny the criminality of their actions.

Practical implications – Policing white‐collar criminality should be expanded to understand criminal entrepreneurs when applying neutralization theory to deny crime activities.Social implications – Neutralization theory illustrates how serious white‐collar crime is denied by the offender.

Originality/value – As can be seen by this brief discussion of criminal entrepreneurship, white‐collar criminality and corporate and organized crime, there is a need for a concentrated research effort to clarify and explain these conflated conflicts. By discussing them in context this paper has made a contribution to the literature by introducing the concepts of entrepreneurial leadership and entrepreneurial judgment into the debate. Moreover, in discussing neutralization theory, some fresh insights can be gained into the mind of the criminal entrepreneur.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)300-308
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Enterprising Communities: People and Places in the Global Economy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Crime
  • Criminals
  • Entrepreneurialism
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Criminal entrepreneur
  • White‐collar crime
  • Neutralization theory


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