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Fraud and guilt: rationalization strategies and the relevance of Kierkegaardian life-views

Michel Dion (School of Management, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Canada)

Journal of Financial Crime

ISSN: 1359-0790

Article publication date: 1 April 2019




The purpose of this paper is to use Kierkegaard’s life-views (aesthetical, ethicist and religious life-views) for better understanding the way fraudsters are dealing with their ontic-existentiell guilt, while developing rationalization tactics.


Rationalization tactics make possible to neutralize moral discomfort about fraudulent practices. Endorsing Kierkegaard life-views actually unveils three basic patterns fraudsters could agree with (consciously or not): the focus for individualization processes, the ontic-existentiell quest and the attitude towards guilt. Each Kierkegaardian life-view has deepened this threefold pattern in a very different way.


The aesthetician life-view is so emphasizing immediacy and pleasure that it strengthens an amoral perspective. Fraudsters could easily adopt such life-view. The ethicist is so basically concerned with morality (distinction between good and evil) that he/she cannot consciously favour fraudulent practices. At best, fraudsters may be “would-be ethicists”. As long as they are unable to feel repentance, fraudsters will not be able to fully embrace the religious life-view. At best, they may be “would-be religious”.

Research limitations/implications

The way Kierkegaard’s life-views could put light on fraudsters’ rationalization tactics has not been empirically assessed. Empirical studies that would be focussed on such topics should deepen the relevance and meaning of fraudsters’ psychological, sociological, cultural and religious/spiritual traits.


The paper analyzes to what extent fraudsters could feel psychological guilt, as well as ontic-existentiell guilt, as it is grounded on ontological-existential guilt (guilt as an ontological category). Taking Kierkegaard’s life-views as reference pattern, it presents the implications of being oriented towards immediacy/pleasure (avoiding guilt, at any cost), towards freedom (being aware of one’s guilt) or towards the infinite (being fully aware of one’s guilt).



Disclosure statement: No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author.


Dion, M. (2019), "Fraud and guilt: rationalization strategies and the relevance of Kierkegaardian life-views", Journal of Financial Crime, Vol. 26 No. 2, pp. 607-622.



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