To be clever enough to get all the money, one must be stupid enough to want it.

The rich are the scum of the earth in every country.

Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.

Without education we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously. G.K. Chesterton


This is a very interesting book for those who are factually minded and who like their material presented without too much adulteration with theory and subtle psychological analysis. The modus operandi of professional thievery is detailed with what appears to be a photographic reality. The techniques, including the relationship with the forces that are supposed to suppress thievery, is given with just about the same dryness of style that an institutional head would use to describe the working of the various departments in is organization. There is no attempt made to sentimentalize the situation. One does not get the feeling that the professional thief is a victim of society. We are merely shown how as a professional man he carries on his profession, which is as it should be for the mature student of criminology. He can supply emotion and psychological analysis, since the thief himself is certainly in no position, even with the best of intentions and greatest of skill, to do so. The fact that stands out is that there is a sort of sociological ecology operating in the case of the professional thief and of crime in general. Circumstances and character create the professional thief. He works in a framework in which he comes in contact with the law. The law both punishes and at the same time through the bribery of its individual members shelters and protects him. In other words, the law is seen not as an abstract force but as made up of individuals who, coming in contact with the opportunity to make money, do so in a directly professional way. Thus, it becomes part of the profession of many policemen and other officials to make money out of the professional thief, just as it is their duty to suppress him. This has all been beautifully pointed out by Walter Lippman in his more or less theoretic articles on crime and criminals, and the reviewer has also attempted to demonstrate this in a publication of his own. But here we have first-hand information not only of the fact but of the technique by which the fact becomes a matter of great importance to society. The reviewer highly recommends this book to those who are interested in crime as a social phenomenon and who attempt to view the situation without any ideological bias. A. Myerson

Source: The American Journal of Psychiatry


This monograph by a professional thief—with the aid of Edwin H. Sutherland’s expert comments and analyses—is a revealing sociological document that goes far to explain the genesis, development, and patterns of criminal behavior. “Chic Conwell,” as the author was known in the underworld, gives a candid and forthright account of the highly organized society in which the professional thief lives. He tells how he learned to steal, survive, succeed, and ultimately to pay his debt to society and prepare himself for full and useful citizenship. The Professional Thief presents in amazing detail the hard, cold facts about the private lives and professional habits of pickpockets, shoplifters, and conmen, and brings into focus the essential psychological and sociological situations that beget and support professional crime. The University of Chicago books

The Professional Thief: An astonishing revelation of criminal life, by a professional thief, Annotated and Interpreted by Edwin H. Sutherland, The University of Chicago, 1937.

Edwin H. Sutherland  (1883 – 1950) was an American sociologist. He is considered as one of the most influential criminologists of the twentieth century.


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