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Corruption: Expanding the Focus

Manuhuia Barcham
Barry Hindess
Peter Larmour
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Recent years have seen an unprecedented rise in interest in the topic of corruption, resulting in a rising demand for suitable teaching materials. This edited collection brings together two different approaches to the study of corruption — the first represented by a large, practically-oriented literature devoted to identifying the causes of corruption, assessing its incidence and working out how to bring it under control; the second by a smaller collection of critical literature in political theory and intellectual history that addresses conceptual and historical issues concerned with how corruption should be, and how it has been, understood — and uses the second to reflect on the first. This collection will be of interest to post-graduate students in political science, law, sociology, public policy and development studies, to senior public servants, and to professionals working in multilateral agencies, NGOs and the media.

    eISBN: 978-1-921862-99-1
    Subjects: Political Science, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. 1. Introduction: How should we think about corruption?
    (pp. 1-24)
    Barry Hindess

    Like Caesar’s Gaul, the contemporary literature on corruption can be divided into three parts,¹ with very little overlap between them. One part, by no means the largest or most influential, is, like this book, largely produced by professional academics. It is analytic and historical in character, focusing on how corruption has been or should be defined. The other two, while not uninterested in questions of definition, are more directly related to policy issues.They are produced by a shifting population of academics, policy professionals and activists who focus largely on the public sector and view corruption as improper conduct of a...

  6. 2. Aristotle on Legality and Corruption
    (pp. 25-36)
    Richard Mulgan

    For most people in public policy circles, one suspects, the main problems surrounding corruption are practical. The concept itself is comparatively straightforward and concrete in connotation, referring to certain specific practices such as bribery, cronyism and nepotism. The harmfulness of such practices is taken as self-evident because they are obvious abuses of power. The only question is how to ‘stamp it out’.

    For a political theorist, however, ‘corruption’ is a striking and perplexing term. In the first place, it has proved remarkably difficult to define in general terms, beyond a set of leading examples such as bribery, favouritism and nepotism....

  7. 3. To Corrupt: The ambiguity of the language of corruption in ancient Athens
    (pp. 37-52)
    Arlene W. Saxonhouse

    Today the language of corruption thrives largely within the framework of moral theory. The most general sense of the term to which most scholarly attention is given seems to be the inappropriate use of public resources for private gain, with the meaning of ‘public’ branching out from governmental institutions to economic entities such as public corporations. The use of public resources for private gain harms the lives of those who depend on the open and fair distribution and use of public goods. Thus, the moral context enmeshes the language of corruption in a liberal world that distinguishes public from private,...

  8. 4. Rule by Natural Reason: Late Medieval and early Renaissance conceptions of political corruption
    (pp. 53-72)
    Manuhuia Barcham

    This paper argues that, from about the eleventh century CE, a new and distinctive model of corruption accompanied the rediscovery and increased availability of a number of classical texts and ideals, particularly those of Cicero and the Roman Jurists. This new model of corruption accompanied a renewed emphasis on classical ideals in theorising the political, and a subsequent change in the way in which political life was conceived in Europe. Combining the medieval Christian focus on the importance of moral values with the classical emphasis on the value of reason, this tradition merged political and moral reason such that they...

  9. 5. Changing Contours of Corruption in Western Political Thought, c. 1200–1700
    (pp. 73-96)
    Bruce Buchan

    While the concept of ‘corruption’ has played a prominent part in the history of Western political thought, it has rarely excited sustained analysis. Today, corruption is usually used to refer to a particular kind of misdemeanour in public office. In contemporary neo-liberal economic thought, a primary aim of governments is to secure the requirements for a healthy domestic economy underpinned by foreign investment, and among these requirements is the elimination of ‘corruption’ (see International Monetary Fund, 1997). Corruption here denotes forms of behaviour that threaten to subvert the separation of government and economy, and impose wasteful costs (Dearden, 2003). This...

  10. 6. Ideas of Corruption in the Eighteenth Century: The competing conceptions of Adam Ferguson and Adam Smith
    (pp. 97-112)
    Lisa Hill

    Although the eighteenth century is generally conceived as the age of progress and optimism, many eighteenth-century thinkers believed the world was in its senility. Such fears focused on a concern for the dissipation of virtue and this became one of the most urgent problems of political philosophy in the eighteenth century (Pocock, 1975, p. 462). Like many of their contemporaries in the Scottish Enlightenment, Adam Ferguson (1723–1816) and Adam Smith (1723–90) were intensely interested in the development of commercialism and the accompanying social, political and material changes that were taking place in the latter half of the eighteenth...

  11. 7. Corruption, Development, Chaos and Social Disorganisation: Sociological reflections on corruption and its social basis
    (pp. 113-132)
    John Clammer

    Corruption is now widely understood to be one of the main distorters of effective development intervention, leading to the illegal misappropriation of aid, inefficiencies and crime in local and national bureaucracies, the failure of poverty-alleviation schemes to reach the very poorest, and general lack of access to primary health care, education, housing and clean water. High levels of corruption can distort the operation of social justice and the fair distribution of resources. Corruption is also often seen as a ‘local’ problem—as a form of crime that requires ethical, legal or managerial mechanisms to prevent, contain or eradicate it, or...

  12. 8. Professionalising Corruption? Investigating professional ethics for politicians
    (pp. 133-154)
    John Uhr

    In this chapter, I try to open up a new perspective on professional ethics as applied to elected politicians by exploring two questions. First, given that the main goal is to improve the state of political ethics, is a professional-ethics model the best way to proceed? I answer with a very qualified ‘yes’, arguing that democracy needs real ethics, not the empty formalism sometimes found in professional-ethics schemes. My answer draws on J. M. Coetzee’s novel Elizabeth Costello (2003, pp. 284–7), a fascinating recent account of the limits of professional ethics.¹

    Second, how can real ethics affect real politics...

  13. 9. Corruption and the Concept of Culture: Evidence from the Pacific Islands
    (pp. 155-178)
    Peter Larmour

    Ideas about ‘culture’ have often been used to explain or excuse acts of corruption. Gift-giving, it is sometimes said, is ‘part of our culture’, and outsiders should not confuse it with bribery or corruption. Such a relativistic approach has been strongly criticised by academic writers on corruption such as Syed Alatas in his classic Sociology of corruption (1968), and by activists like Transparency International (TI).

    Alatas sees cultural relativism as another kind of Western naivety and condescension towards non-Western societies. The West, he argues, imagines the latter societies as incapable of telling right from wrong, a notion that Alatas thoroughly...