Pages 331 - 350
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.