The flight in-house…as routine

François Bonnet in an article of the French Review of Sociology February 2008 ” A crime without deviance : theft internally as well as routine analysis to the thefts by employees at their workplace for their own account. He sees it as a routine listed in the asymmetrical relations, with the idea that analytically the employee theft, the theft of the security agents and the theft of the boss are not very different : all steal because they can.

If most of the work on the flights in-house are on the search for the causes of this delinquency, the author chooses in his article a different angle of approach. “The challenge of this article is to analyze the flight as an internal routine, better understood by resorting to the theory of the principal-agent than to the social causes of crime : a theft in the house is so widespread and so integrated into the working relationships that it is a perfect case of “deviance” that is not a and of “crime” that does not cause the scandal. “The article is based on a qualitative survey conducted in the worlds of retail, and cleaning, in the framework of the research on controlling crime in shopping centres in France and Italy. 45 interviews were conducted with police officers, security officers, store managers, employees, trade unionists, social workers in two shopping centers, two large cities, one French and one Italian.

A question of opportunity

As shown by the author, the interest of flight internal to sociology is that it is a delinquency routine. The concept of delinquency routine comes from the criminology american “rational choice” called routine activity approach, a perspective that has been developed by Cohen and Felson (1979) to explain the paradox of the end of the 1970s : the combination of the affluent society and to the sharp increase in crime. Until then, the deviance was largely explained by the convovation of social causes. The crime was thought of as the consequence of poverty, the disordered family, or oppression. For Cohen and Felson (” Social change and crime rate trends : a routine activity approach “, American sociological review, 44, 4, pp. 588-608, 1979), the increase in crime after the Second world War is explained by two factors. On the one hand, the quantity of goods in circulation increases, so that the opportunities of flights are growing ; on the other hand, the functional specialization of urban spaces and rhythms of work greatly facilitate the work of thieves. There is a summary of these theories in the critical Dictionary of sociology Boudon and Bourricaud to the article Crime (p 131 for the paperback edition) or in the collection U, Armand Colin in the reference book by Albert Ogien Sociology of deviance (1995)

F Bonnet updates three properties of the theft in-house. It is primarily a function of the opportunities available to the employee, and his ability to outwit the monitoring ; monitoring is conducted often to tolerate petty theft juvenile, to decriminalize the flights inevitable. In addition, it appears that the flight in-house if built to industrial relations it is exploited by the bosses against the employees, mostly as a pretext for layoffs.


The flight house is also liable of an analysis in terms of principal-agent. The problem of principal-agent has been formalized in microeconomics, it is used to characterize the properties of a situation of asymmetric information between two actors who return in an exchange relationship. Classically one takes the example of an employee and his employer. The employer assigns a work to its employee, since it is not subject to continuous monitoring, or perfect, he can find his interest not to perform the tasks assigned to it. Thus, there is a basic problem in the relationship, since the principal can never be sure that the agent is doing his job well, while having to continue to pay for it. Any hierarchical relationship in the world of work is principal-agent ; the theft internally is fully in line with the structure of the relationship. On the one hand, employees develop strategies inventive to take advantage of the opportunities, aware of their knowledge of the security systems, to steal the company ; on the other, the framework monitors to limit losses.

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