Most law concerned with white-collar crime dates back less than 100 years. This is remarkable considering that e date the first written code back to the period of Hammurabi 2100-1750 b.c. But it is not so remarkable if one keeps in mind the context of occupational and organizational crime. White-collar crime is embedded within market economies centered on exchange relationships. These relationships have only been central to social life for a relatively short period of time. Exchange relations and market relations did exist earlier were a part of social life for a very long time. As for holding a central place in social relations, this does not happen until the decline of feudalism. This decline has been examined on a number of different grounds by a number of different authors, yet it appears that changing class relations more than anything account for the dramatic social, political, and economic change. And dramatic it was! In 1848, Marx wrote in the Communist Manifesto (224): The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his ’natural superiors,’ and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous ‘cash payment.’ It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervour, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, I the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the number less indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom – Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.
Within the context of rapidly changing social, political, religious, and economic relations develops the possibility of white-collar crime. Clearly distinct class relations did exist prior to the growth of capitalism, but the essence of the relations did not allow for such unadulterated and unmasked exploitation of all contending classes. It did allow for exploitation of some but then it has been argued that even slaves and bonded serfs in some since faired better than the free worker. It is questionable where women fit into the exploitation scheme. In part, the blatant patriarchal relations of feudal society did provide for some security, even if little freedom did exist. Under capitalism there is no assurance of either. Law during the feudal period was designed to maintain the social order, such is the essence of law, but the nature of the social order was quite different. Reciprocity was the norm even in the workings of the criminal justice system. Much of law was based on tradition, enforced by community members as a whole, and judged by local nobility. It is during the decline of these relations and the rise of the powerful merchant class that a significant law for white-collar crime developed, the law against embezzlement and pilferage (Colman 1985:124-126). This developed in common law what is referred to as larceny. What is of importance is the way in which the law becomes rewritten in the process of deciding one particular case, the law of theft. The Carrier’s case (Hall 1952), as it has been dubbed, is critical in understanding the legal foundation for prohibiting crimes against corporations by employees. Larceny had been limited to the act of carrying away property, mostly cattle, or money without the consent of the owner and with the intent of depriving the owner of its use (Coleman 1985:124). Most misappropriation of another’s property was covered under civil law (it is still that way in relations between business and for the most part the public and business). The growth in the woolen trade business with its increasingly dependence on the burgeoning merchant class, lead to