Tuesday, October 2, 2018

No. 288: Edwin Sutherland: A Censorship Case

In No. 283 (August 23, 2018), in a review of Jesse Eisinger's 2017 book entitled The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives, I said he attributes the expression "white-collar crime" to the late Edwin Sutherland, a sociology professor at Indiana University (IU). Eisinger also says Sutherland's classic 1949 book entitled White Collar Crime was censored for many years. I was startled by the reference to censorship because, during my 56-year association with IU, I have considered the school a bastion of academic freedom. Here I discuss the Sutherland censorship case.

The 1939 Talk and the 1940 Paper
Sutherland was a prominent sociologist. Among the schools at which he taught were University of Illinois, University of Minnesota, and University of Chicago. Later, at IU, he chaired the sociology department. In 1939 he served as president of the American Sociological Society. On December 27, 1939, he delivered his Presidential Address at a joint meeting with the American Economic Association. The paper was published in the February 1940 issue of the American Sociological Review under the title "White-Collar Criminality."

The First Version of the Book
In 1949 Dryden Press published the first version of Sutherland's book. The original manuscript included citations to court rulings and regulatory commission findings, thereby identifying many prominent corporations as "criminals." Dryden, fearing lawsuits for damages, demanded deletion of names. The IU administration also pressured Sutherland, because it feared alienating major contributors. Sutherland agonized over the issue, and eventually agreed to make the deletions. He explained his decision in two paragraphs of a preface in the first version of the book:
The corporations, whose records before the courts and commissions are presented in this book, are designated by numbers and letters rather than by names. The identity of the corporations is thus concealed for two reasons. First, the identity of criminals is frequently concealed in scientific writings about living offenders. Second, the objective of the book, which is the theory of criminal behavior, can be better attained without directing attention in an invidious manner to the behavior of particular corporations.
Although these reasons for concealing the identity of the corporations which are discussed are convincing, certain losses result. First, it is not possible to present citations to decisions of courts and commissions, since these citations would reveal the identity of the corporations. Even if such citations were to be presented, they could be presented only in illustrative cases. The list of citations for all decisions used would occupy approximately one-fourth of the number of pages in this book. Anyone who is interested in the general principles stated in this book or in the statistical records of the large corporations can make his own statistical analysis from the sources which are described in Chapters II and XII. Second, although illustrative incidents have been presented without names of corporations and with some alterations in unimportant details, these do not give the impression of reality that would be given by documented descriptions of the decisions against well-known corporations. Finally, a person can get a vivid realization that the behavior of these corporations is criminal behavior only by reading many reports of decisions against them. Something is lost, in this sense, since many detailed and documented cases could not be presented without revealing the identity of the corporations. In spite of these losses which result from concealing the identity of the corporations, no essential part of the logic of the book is affected by the policy which has been adopted. [Blogger's note: In the first version of the book, Chapter II is entitled "The Statistical Record," and Chapter XII is entitled "Records of Fifteen Power and Light Corporations."]
Sutherland died the following year, on October 11, 1950, at age 67. While walking to his office, he suffered a stroke, fell, hit his head on a concrete walkway, and died on the way to the hospital.

The Second Version of the Book
In 1961 Holt Rinehart and Winston published the second version of Sutherland's book. It was identical to the first version, including Sutherland's preface. However, it also included a ten-page foreword by Donald R. Cressey. The foreword contained this footnote:
The original White Collar Crime manuscript contained court and commission citations and, thus, identified the various corporations involved. The original publisher's attorneys advised Sutherland that a corporation might sue the publisher and author on the ground that calling its behavior "criminal" is libelous. Sutherland withdrew the manuscript and prepared the present one. Had the original manuscript (which Mrs. Myrtle Sutherland still holds) been published, and had a libel suit been initiated, then Sutherland's contention that the listed offenses are in fact crimes might have been tested in a court of law—a corporation might have argued that the statement is libelous because its behavior is not crime, with Sutherland giving the arguments presented in this volume. I was one of Sutherland's research assistants at the time, and I urged that the manuscript be published for this reason, if for no other. However, my idealistic desire to see a scientific principle tested in a court of law was not tempered by any practical consideration such as having money riding on the legal validity of the scientific principle. This was not the case with either the publisher or Professor Sutherland.
On October 11, 1962, Mrs. Sutherland donated the original uncensored manuscript to the Lilly Library on the IU main campus in Bloomington. I looked at the manuscript there, and it is indeed the original 396-page double-spaced typewritten manuscript showing the names of the corporations. The manuscript includes no introduction, preface, foreword, or index. The title page, Mrs. Sutherland's letter, the table of contents, the list of tables, and Table 3 mentioned below are in the complimentary package offered at the end of this post.

The Third Version of the Book
In 1983 Yale University Press published the third version of Sutherland's book. It is not censored, omits Sutherland's unnecessary preface, includes a 25-page explanatory introduction by Gilbert Geis and Colin Goff, and remains in print today as a quality paperback.

The third version restores an entire chapter entitled "Three Case Histories," which was cut from the two earlier versions. That chapter discusses American Smelting and Refining Company, United States Rubber Company, and The Pittsburgh Coal Company. The chapter also identifies several other corporations related to those three.

The third version also restores the names of the many corporations whose names were previously deleted from various tables. Table 3, for example, is entitled "Decisions by Courts and Commissions against 70 Large Corporations by Types of Laws Violated." The column headings are "Corporation," "Restraint of trade," "Misrepresentation in advertising," "Infringement," "Unfair labor practices," "Rebates," "Other," and "Total." The corporations are listed alphabetically. Those with 25 or more decisions are American Tobacco, Armour & Company, Ford, General Electric, General Motors, Loew's, Montgomery Ward, Paramount, Sears Roebuck, Swift & Company, U.S. Steel, and Warner Brothers. In the first two versions of the book, the corporations listed in Table 3 were identified by numbers 1 to 70, and listed in declining order of "Total" decisions.

My Personal Kinsey Story
When I arrived at IU in 1962, I began work on a questionnaire to be sent to life insurance companies in connection with a research project. Professor J. Edward Hedges, who chaired the insurance area at the time, walked into my office one day and said he was headed to a meeting in the IU president's office. He said IU had received a complaint about me from a prominent alumnus in the insurance business. In response to my expression of concern, Hedges said: "Joe, you don't understand. IU is where Alfred Kinsey did his research." I was aware of the furor over Professor Kinsey's controversial research in the late 1940s and early 1950s on human sexual behavior and IU's staunch protection of him. After the meeting, the president's office asked for a copy of the questionnaire when I circulated it, and I never heard anything further on the matter.

My Personal Guest Lecture Story
A few years after I arrived in Bloomington, I received a call from a faculty member at a university in another state. He invited me to visit his school and give a guest lecture. He said his school might offer me a position. I accepted the invitation, gave the lecture, and met some people there. Shortly after my return to Bloomington, he called to thank me and said an expense check was in the mail. He also said he was embarrassed to tell me there would be no job offer. He said the chief executive officer of a major insurance company based in his state had learned of my visit and had told school officials there would be no further contributions to the school by the company if I was appointed to the faculty. My friend said the school had decided it could not afford to antagonize a major donor. I thanked him for telling me. I did not tell him my immediate thought: a financial threat by a donor to influence a faculty hiring decision is not tolerated by a great university, and I was grateful to have avoided a disastrous career move. That was the first and last time I considered leaving IU.

General Observations
Because of the nature of my research, over the years I learned first hand how IU protects its faculty against censorship. That is why I was surprised to learn about the Sutherland case. I am confident that, if a similar situation arose today, IU would stand behind its faculty member and would, if necessary, publish the research through the IU Press.

Available Material
I am offering a complimentary 9-page PDF consisting of the front matter (6 pages) and Table 3 (3 pages) of the original manuscript. Email jmbelth@gmail.com and ask for the October 2018 package about Sutherland.