Organi-cultural deviance

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Cesare Beccaria (1738-1794) pioneered the study of crime

Organi-cultural deviance is a recent philosophical model used in academia and corporate criminology that views corporate crime as a body of social, behavioral, and environmental processes leading to deviant acts. This view of corporate crime differs from that of Edwin Sutherland(1949), who referred to corporate crime as white-collar crime, in that Sutherland viewed corporate crime as something done by an individual as an isolated end onto itself. With the Organi-cultural deviance view, corporate crime can be engaged in by individuals, groups, organizations, and groups of organizations, all within an organizational context. This view also takes into account micro and macro social, environmental, and personality factors, using a holistic systems approach to understanding the causation of corporate crime.[1]

The term derives its meaning from the words organization (a structured unit) and culture (the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices). This reflects the view that corporate cultures may encourage or accept deviant behaviors that differ from what is normal or accepted in the broader society.[2] Organi-cultural deviance explains the deviant behaviors (defined by societal norms) engaged in by individuals or groups of individuals.[3]

Because corporate crime has often been seen as an understudy of common crime and criminology, it is only recently that the study of corporate crime been included in coursework and degree programs directly related to criminal justice, business management, and organizational psychology. This is partly due to a lack of an official definition for crimes committed in the context of organizations and corporations.

The social philosophical study of common crime gained recognition through Cesare Beccaria during the 18th century, when Beccaria was heralded as the Father of the Classical School of Criminology.[citation needed]

However, corporate crime was not officially recognized as an independent area of study until Edwin Sutherland provided a definition of white collar crime in 1949. Sutherland in 1949, argued to the American Sociological Society the need to expand the boundaries of the study of crime to include the criminal act of respectable individuals in the course of their occupation.[4]

In 2008, Christie Husted found corporate crime to be a complex dynamic of system-level processes, personality traits, macro-environmental, and social influences, requiring a holistic approach to studying corporate crime. Husted, in her 2008 doctoral thesis, Systematic Differentiation Between Dark and Light Leaders: Is a Corporate Criminal Profile Possible?, coined the term organi-cultural deviance to explain these social, situational and environmental factors giving rise to corporate crime.[5]


Renée Gendron and Christie Husted, through their research conducted in 2008-2012, expanded the concept of organi-cultural deviance, in papers presented the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences conference Toronto, Canada, the American Association of Behavioral and Social Sciences Annual Conference, Las Vegas, NV, the General Meeting of the Administrative Sciences Association of Canada, in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, and The Humanities conference in Montréal, Canada.[6] The term organi-cultural deviance incorporated the terms group think, and yes-men, to explain decision-related cognitive impairments inherent of corporations engaging in corporate crime. The researchers have found several interconnected dynamics that increase the likelihood of white-collar crime. The researchers have found specific group dynamics involved in white collar crime are similar to the group dynamics present in gangs, organized crime organizations as well as cults. Moreover, the researchers have found that there are systems-level forces influencing the behaviors and cognitions of individuals.[7]

The subject of organi-cultural deviance was first taught in business management, leadership classes, and in a class titled Corporate Misconduct in America, at Casper College during 2008-2009. Organi-cultural deviance was introduced to students as a social philosophical term used to help describe, explain, and understand the complex social, behavioral, and environmental forces, that lead organizations to engage in corporate crime.

Social Dynamics[edit]

The term organi-cultural deviance was later expanded and published in a 2011 paper titled Socialization of Individuals into Deviant Corporate Culture.[8] Organi-cultural deviance was used to describe how processes of individual and group socialization, within deviant corporate cultures, serve to invert Abraham Maslow’s (1954) Hierarchy of Needs into a theoretical “Hierarchical Funnel of Individual Needs”.[9]

Organi-cultural deviance was further explored by Gendron and Husted,[10] using a micro-environmental approach, identifying social dynamics within deviant organizations believed to lure and capture individuals. However, through the social processes inherent of organi-cultural deviance, social pressures and influences force the individual to vacate aspirations to reach self-actualization and become complacent on satisfying lower needs, such as belongingness. In organi-cultural deviance, social dynamics and micro-environmental forces are believed, by Gendron and Husted, to result in the individual’s dependence upon the organization for their basic needs.[11]

Organizations engaging in organi-cultural deviance use manipulation and a façade of honesty, with promises of meeting the individual’s needs of self-actualization. The social forces such as the use of physical and psychological violence to maintain compliance with organizational goals within deviant organizations secure the individual’s dependence upon the organization for satisfaction of their basic needs. As the process of organi-cultural deviance escalates, the complacency to meet mid-level needs becomes a dependency on the organization to satisfy the lower needs of the pyramid, the individual’s basic needs. In the paper Using Gang and Cult Typologies to Understand Corporate Crimes, Gendron and Husted found organizations engaging in organi-cultural deviance used coercive power, monetary, physical and/or psychological threats, to maintain their gravitational hold on the individual.[12]

In the 2011 paper, Using Gang and Cult Typologies to Understand Corporate Crimes,[13] organi-cultural deviance was used to compare the cultures of: mafias, cults, gangs and deviant corporations, each of which was assumed to be a type of deviant organization. In these types of organizations, organi-cultural deviance was found to be present. In engaging in organi-cultural deviance, these organizations leverage four resources: information, violence, reputation and publicity. These types of organizations engaging in organi-cultural deviance were found to contain toxic leadership . Deviant organizations, engaging in organi-cultural deviance, were found to leverage their reputation through publicity to attract members. The combination of adverse psychological forces, combined with the real need for its employees to survive (earn a living, avoid bullying) act as a type of organizational gravitational pull. The concept of organi-cultural deviance includes both micro (personal, psychological or otherwise internal forces exercising influence over an individual's behavior) and macro influences (group dynamics, organizational culture, inter-organizational forces as well as system pressures and constraints, such as a legal system or overall economic environment).

Environmental Influences[edit]

In a 2012 paper titled Organi-cultural Deviance: Economic Cycles Predicting Corporate Misconduct?, Gendron and Husted found economic cycles result in strain, seen as a precipitating factor in organi-cultural deviance.[14] Organi-cultural deviance is based on the premise social pressure and economic forces exert strain on organizations to engage in corporate crime. Strain creates motivating tension in organi-cultural deviance. Robert Merton championed strain theorists in the field of criminology, believing there to be “a universal set of goals toward which all Americans, regardless of background and position, strive, chief among these is monetary success”.[15] Economic cycles result in observable patterns which are indicative of organi-cultural deviance.

Organi-cultural deviance is likely to occur at different points in an economic cycle and system. The specific location of an economy in the economic cycle tends to generate specific kinds of leaders. Entrepreneurial leaders tend to be most visible at the bottom of an economic cycle, during a depression or recession. Entrepreneurial leaders are able to motivate their employees to innovate and develop new products. As the economy strengthens, there is a marked increased of bureaucratic leaders who standardise and operationalise the successes of entrepreneurial leaders. As the economy reaches the apex of the economic cycle, pseudo-transformational leaders are likely to emerge, promising the same, if not higher, rates of return in a booming or peaking economy. Often, these pseudo-transformational leaders engage in deviant practices to maintain the illusion of rising rates of return.[16]


  • Cernkovich, Giordano & Rudolph (2000) Robert Merton.
  • Gendron, R. and Husted, C. (2011). Socialization of Individuals into Deviant Corporate Culture, American Association of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Las Vegas, Nevada. Perspectives 14 <> (2011 a).
  • Gendron, R. and Husted, C. (2011). Using Gang and Cult Typologies to Understand Corporate Crimes, Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences' Annual General meeting, Toronto, Canada. (2011 b).
  • Gendron, R. and Husted, C. (2012). Economic Cycles Predicting Corporate Misconduct? American Association of Behavioral and Social Sciences, Las Vegas, Nevada. February 16–17, 2012 (2012 c).
  • Gendron, R. and Husted, C. (2010). Organi-cultural Deviance, Administrative Sciences Association of Canada, Regina, Saskatchewan, 2010.
  • Husted, C. (2008). Systematic Differentiation Between Dark and Light Leaders: Is a Corporate Criminal Profile Possible. Capella University.
  • Maslow, A. (1954). Motivation and personality (2nd ed.). New York: Harper & Row.
  • Merton, R. (1938). Social structure and anomie. American Sociological Review 3, 672-82.
  • Schlegel, K., & Weisburd, D. (1992). White-collar crime reconsidered. Boston: Northeastern University Press.
  • Sutherland, E. (1934). Principles of criminology. Chicago, IL: Yale University Press.
  • Sutherland, E. (1949). White collar crime. New York: Holt, Rinchart and Winston.


  1. ^ Husted, 2008, p.4
  2. ^ Husted, 2008, p. 140
  3. ^ Husted, 2008
  4. ^ Schlegel & Weisburd, 1992, p.3
  5. ^ Husted, 2008, p. 178
  6. ^ Gendron & Husted, 2010
  7. ^ Gendron & Husted, 2011b
  8. ^ Gendron and Husted, 2011a
  9. ^ Gendron and Husted, 2011a
  10. ^ Gendron and Husted 2011a
  11. ^ Gendron and Husted 2011a
  12. ^ Gendron and Husted, 2011b
  13. ^ Gendron and Husted, 2011b
  14. ^ Gendron and Husted 2012c
  15. ^ Cernkovich, Giordano & Rudolph 2000, p. 132
  16. ^ Gendron and Husted 2012c

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