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In murky waters: a disentangling of corruption and related concepts

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Notes

  1. 1.

    It should be noted that, following this comment, Lambsdorff [41] does launch into a very insightful discussion on the issue.

  2. 2.

    For further discussion on this point see Kurer [40] or Scott [59].

  3. 3.

    In both works, Machiavelli [45, 46] does mention actions which fit the contemporary notion of corruption as well. This underlines a point made below that corrumpere is a superset of corruption. Machiavelli’s work embeds a notion of currumpere as systemic [13]. That is, it is a problem at a societal rather than individual level. However, this is not a necessity for deviations from duty. More generally, neither corrumpere nor corruption or any of the other concepts discussed here are conceptually wedded to a particular level of analysis. Rather, from the perspective presented here Warren’s [65] critique that contemporary corruption is individualistic is only partially correct. While it is true that many analyses take the individual as a point of departure, this is not a logical extension of corruption as conceptualised below. For instance, corruption may be considered an informal institution [21] or indeed a systemic phenomenon [8].

  4. 4.

    See Goertz’s Social Science Concepts [16] for a much more extensive discussion as well as some extensions of Sartori’s ideas.

  5. 5.

    On a side note: Some might argue that particularistic governing is really a subset of corruption and not the other way around. I disagree on the following grounds: If corruption is indeed on a higher level of abstraction than nepotism, clientelism, pork barrel politics and patronage, the concept must encompass all these terms. What this would mean, however, is essentially an equation of corruption with particularistic governing, and the loss of an overarching conceptual category which demarcate the communalities between specific corrupt acts such as bribery and embezzlement. Such course of action implies an unnecessary loss of information, and–which is worse–conceptual stretching of the corruption concept.

  6. 6.

    Instances where the legislative process is distorted by the corruption of parliamentary parties or their deputies [20, 65] are separate from this question and are fully in line with corruption as a special instance of particularistic government.

  7. 7.

    There is no necessity in this lack of utility. The causes and consequences of corruption and pork barrel politics could well be similar. The point is we cannot know at a general level as the matter relates to which other concepts corruption and pork barrel politics are thought to be related to in a concrete study.

  8. 8.

    Kopečký notes that patronage may be a necessary condition for corruption since the control of positions in the state is necessary for corrupt enrichment [34]. Certainly, bureaucrats need to ‘play along’ in order for most corrupt schemes involving political leadership to function [11, 35]. This, however, does not change the fact that the two phenomena are conceptually distinct, which is the main point I try to make here.

  9. 9.

    Some authors use the term clientelism in a broader sense, encompassing what Kopečký [34] refers to as patronage (e.g. [31]). However, for the purpose of conceptual disentangling, which is the exercise performed here, a distinction between the two is fruitful.

  10. 10.

    Clientelism as well might be argued to entail material rewards [59]. However, the rewards in this case befall the client outside politics and/or the bureaucracy, whereas corruption as defined for present purposes entails rewards for actors within these arenas. Clientelism, in this way, is corruption in reverse.

  11. 11.

    Perhaps, I should explain: Consider a people of a certain country who engage frequently in deviations from the impartiality principle for material gain as they do not consider such an act to be corruption. This is not a conceptual issue; they are still engaging in corruption. What becomes interesting, of course, is why they do not consider what they are doing corrupt. Clearly, this is an explanatory question, which does not relate to the scholarly classification of their actions.

  12. 12.

    Though, for instance, a political party’s gains from corrupt schemes may translate into electoral gain indirectly in a separate transaction.

  13. 13.

    What constitutes the specific differences between a bribe and a gift is beyond the topic discussed here. A discussion can be found in Holmes [25]. Suffice it here to say that insofar as material inducements or rewards directed at public officials cause deviations from impartiality, they are to be regarded as corrupt.

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Correspondence to Kim Sass Mikkelsen.

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Mikkelsen, K.S. In murky waters: a disentangling of corruption and related concepts. Crime Law Soc Change 60, 357–374 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10611-013-9474-6

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Keywords

  • Public Office
  • Penal Code
  • Corruption Perception Index
  • Material Gain
  • Private Gain