2008 - Volume 49 > Numéro 2

ISSN 0035-2969

A crime without deviance : workplace theft as a routine activity
François BONNET

pp. 331-350


A crime without deviance : workplace theft as a routine activity

Workplace theft accounts for a considerable mass of crime. Economics and management literature addresses the phenomenon exclusively in terms of how to reduce it, while in sociology literature workplace theft is seen as an act of resistance against workplace injustice. In this article the phenomenon is studied using a « routine activity approach » (a « rational choice » approach used in American criminology) on the basis of a survey of actors in the mass marketing and cleaning sectors. Analyzing workplace theft as routine delinquency leads to seeing it less as deviance from a norm than a function of opportunities and surveillance. Principal-agent and agency costs theory is used to understand how it is that anti-theft surveillance involves not prevention/repression logic but rather tolerance/acceptance of what cannot be overseen. As an example of routine delinquency, workplace theft is less likely to scandalize than it is to be instrumentalized by its victims : employers can use theft as grounds for firing the employee. Lastly, the theoretical issues raised by the routine activity approach are critically discussed.



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