Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 70, Issue 2, pp 197–215 | Cite as

Corruption and lobbying: conceptual differentiation and gray areas

  • Felix GoldbergEmail author


Political scientists have yet to agree upon a conceptual distinction between lobbying and corruption. Most scholars investigate these concepts separately and distinguish them by their legality. Relying on a legal distinction makes comparative research nearly impossible. This article presents a framework in which lobbying and corruption can be distinguished based on theoretical considerations investigating their harms to democracy. I argue that lobbying becomes corruption as soon as it is a source of exclusion from a democratic process. Using this approach, I discuss different gray areas between corruption and lobbying. Distinguishing lobbying from corruption helps to understand when they substitute each other and when they occur complementarily.



An early version of this paper was presented at the Second Interdisciplinary Corruption Research Forum in Paris. I gratefully acknowledge the helpful comments of the participants. I also would like to thank the editors of this special issue, the anonymous reviewer, Patrick Bernhagen, Katrin Jochumn and Vit Simral for their valuable comments.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department for Political Sociology and Political Systems, Institute for Social SciencesUniversity of StuttgartStuttgartGermany

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