Peter Yeager

Peter Yeager

Peter Yeager

Associate Professor

PhD, University of Wisconsin, Madison (1981)

Sociology 261 | 617.358.0635 |


After a first career as a newspaper journalist in Minneapolis, I earned my masters and doctoral degrees in sociology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.  I had earlier graduated from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis campus, with a BA in journalism.  Following my first academic post on the sociology faculty at Yale University, I moved to Boston University where my wife was teaching in the School of Management.

In our classrooms I presently teach courses in the sociology of law, crime and punishment, and deviancy and social control.  I have also taught courses in medical sociology, social issues, and white-collar crime, and have additional interests in the sociology of the professions, organizational sociology, and environmental sociology.  In my courses I use the theoretical insights of classical and contemporary sociology to assess a wide array of contemporary social issues and policy responses to them.   In addition to the excitement of teaching, I have greatly enjoyed watching former students go on to excel in diverse fields, including among others law, social welfare (social work, nonprofits), medicine, professional sociology, business and politics.

Despite their obvious differences, my various research projects are linked by my enduring interest in systems of rules, from persons’ codes of ordinary morality and basic norms of social interaction to the informal expectations of bureaucracies and the formalized laws of governments.  I am especially interested in ways in which these various rule systems intersect with each other, requiring individuals and groups to navigate between often inconsistent or even contradictory expectations for their behavior.

How these rules systems operate, and how persons navigate these various sorts of expectations and dilemmas in their private, work and public lives, are questions that have motivated my research into such matters as juvenile delinquents attitudes toward criminal laws, lawbreaking by powerful corporations, constraints on government’s ability to make and enforce environmental law, and the handling of ethical dilemmas by managers and executives in large companies.

I have also become interested in questions regarding professional ethics, in particular the ways in which the special obligations in such professions as law, medicine, science, engineering and accounting are either realized or confounded as professionals carry out their work in organizations.  In this area I have spent a year as a Faculty Fellow in Ethics in Harvard University’s Program in Ethics in the Professions, and I have advised the U.S. government on its initiative in recent years to build a policy-advising research agenda to examine misconduct in scientific research.


2009. ‘Science, Values and Politics:  An Insider’s Reflections on Corporate Crime Research.’ In Crime, Law & Social Change (special issue: Social and Political Transformations in White-Collar Crime, M. Dodge and G. Geis, eds.).

2009. ‘Environmental Lawbreaking in Business.’   In Michael Tonry (ed.), Handbook on Crime and Public Policy, Oxford University Press.  With Sally S. Simpson.

2007. “Understanding Corporate Lawbreaking: From Profit-Seeking to Law-Finding.”  In Henry Pontell and Gilbert Geis (eds.), International Handbook of White-Collar and Corporate Crime. Springer.

2006. Corporate Crime, re-issued by Transaction Publishers as a classic in criminology and law.  With Marshall B. Clinard.

1995. “Management, Morality and Law: Organizational Forms and Ethical Deliberations.”  In Frank Pearce and Laureen Snider [eds.], Corporate Crime: Contemporary Debates.  The University of Toronto Press.

1995. “Fielding Hot Topics in Cool Settings: The Study of Corporate Ethics.”  In Jonathan B. Imber and Rosanna Hertz [eds.], Studying Elites Using Qualitative Methods.  Sage Publications.  With Kathy E. Kram.