This essay explores what Ethnologie (social and cultural anthropology) can contribute to the study of corruption. It firstly lays bare basic approaches of the study of corruption by conventional political and social sciences and influential political agents such as Transparency International. In these approaches, corruption is shaped by a variety of assumptions: that corruption takes place between the public and a private sphere, that it is an indicator of instability and that it is morally reprehensibly and therefore a clandestine activity. The essay expands on these assumptions from the anthropological point of view, thereby detecting blind spots in the conventional approaches. Finally, by discussing four examples, the essay seeks to show how Ethnologie can enrich other approaches to social scientific corruption research with a genuine contribution.
A Case of “Good, but Could Do Better”
Germany has traditionally been viewed as a country where corruption is under control. Corruption has never been viewed as nonexistent, but for much of the postwar period it was still seen as something that happened largely elsewhere. Where it did
Moral Reckoning in Post-GFC Iceland
Mary Hawkins and Helena Onnudottir
perception of Icelanders as exceptional, independent and ethical people, have been severely disrupted as evidence of corruption on the part of some Icelandic bankers and politicians has mounted. The national culture and morals – drawing confidence from the
un mal français
Les deux dernières décennies de la chronique politique française ont été caractérisées, entre autres, par l’éclosion incessante d’« affaires » mettant en cause la probité des dirigeants. Les « scandales » à répétition qui émaillent désormais le débat public en ont profondément affecté la nature. Cet article ne prétend pas proposer une interprétation d’ensemble du phénomène. Il se contente, sur la base des observations de l’auteur, d’avancer quelques pistes de compréhension de cette « corruption » à la française. Nous nous limiterons ici à la sphère proprement politique, même si les « affaires » de ce genre n’épargnent évidemment pas les domaines administratif et économique.
Italo Pardo, Between morality and the law: Corruption, anthropology and comparative society. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004, pp. 187, ISBN 0-7546-4290-9.
Monique Nuijten and Gerhard Anders, eds., Corruption and the secret of law: A legal anthropological perspective, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2007, pp. 234, ISBN: 978-0-7546-7110-7.
Toward a New Legally Oriented Environment at a Global Level
Giovanni Tartaglia Polcini
governments. Still, this is not an isolated national problem. Italy is convinced that the fight against corruption, at the international level, can result in economic growth, employment, and investor confidence, thus enabling a more concrete protection of
Why Mediterranean patron-client relations are relevant for understanding the work of international accountancy firms
Patron-clientelism and corruption were traditionally viewed as problems endemic to underdeveloped marginal countries with weak states, powerful self-serving elites, and widespread civic disengagement. However, recent decades have seen a dramatic increase in corruption scandals in the Global North, particularly its more developed banking and financial sectors. Paradoxically, this has occurred despite a massive expansion in auditing by international accountancy firms (KPMG, PwC, Deloitte, EY) who often portray themselves as warriors of integrity, transparency, and ethical conduct. How are these trends connected? Drawing on anthropological studies of Mediterranean patron-clientelism, I illustrate how collusive relations between accountancy firms and their clients create ideal conditions for corruption to flourish. Finally, I ask how can these accountancy scandals help us rethink patron-clientelism in an age of “audit culture”?
In this paper I will explore the relationship between social norms – in the sense of regularities in action which embody moral attitudes – and corruption, in contexts of transcultural interaction. There is a great deal of theoretical unclarity in relation to all the key notions involved, namely, social norms, corruption and transcultural interaction, and yet theoretical clarity is a necessary precursor to resolving the empirical and policy issues in this area, including empirical and policy issues of great importance for the future of many countries involved in the process of globalisation. Accordingly, in the first section of this paper I will spend some time on theoretical clarification.1 In the last section of the paper I will make some tentative suggestions concerning the connections between social norms and corruption in transcultural interactions, and illustrate these suggestions by use of two well-known transcultural corruption scandals, namely, Bhopal in India, and Lockheed in Japan. The informing idea here is that examination of such major scandals is likely to reveal underlying institutional conditions and processes which are conducive to corruption, but which go largely unnoticed in the normal course of events; it takes a major corruption scandal to bring these underlying conditions and processes to the surface.2
Poverty and policy in the south of Laos
Anthropological understandings of development have often discussed development projects in terms of an extension of the state. Using the example of a participatory poverty reduction project in Laos, this article outlines how development schemes also have the potential to define areas of exception from state services. This project was understood by project officers as an example of a successful “participatory” project. Lao recipients, however, interpreted it in terms of the non-provision of state services, and thus as further evidence of governmental corruption and deceit. These residents—far from resisting the notion of development, or the extension of the state—emphasized largesse and provisioning as the hallmarks of a successful project and a legitimate state. Their forms of “everyday resistance” to the project focused on narratives demanding more incorporation with the state.
Donatella della Porta, Salvatore Sberna, and Alberto Vannucci
This chapter examines two episodes of large-scale corruption that erupted in 2014: the procurements process for the MOSE tidal barrier project, which is intended to surround and protect Venice, and the contracts signed in the run-up to Expo 2015 in Milan. The chapter shows how networks of corruption have survived the “clean hands” scandal of the early 1990s and thrive in a world of neo-liberal policies that promote privatization, deregulation, and liberalization. These policies have not led to a reduction in corruption; rather, they have shifted governance structures toward private figures who, in the name of the free market, often end up with better opportunities to corrupt or to be corrupted.