Human Affairs

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 148–159 | Cite as

Political science approaches to integrity and corruption

  • Jonathan Rose
  • Paul M. HeywoodEmail author
Research Article


Integrity ought logically to be a particularly important concept within political science. If those acting within the political system do not have integrity, our ability to trust them, to have confidence in their actions, and perhaps even to consider them legitimate can be challenged. Indeed, the very concept of integrity goes some way towards underwriting positive views of political actors. Yet, despite this importance, political science as a discipline has perhaps focused too little on questions of integrity. Where political science has looked at the subject of integrity, it has often done so without using the specific linguistic formulation “integrity”. Most commonly, the focus has instead been on “corruption”—a strand of research which has produced results that cannot always be translated into discussions of integrity, by virtue of its narrower focus upon the “negative pole” of public ethics. Other measures, such as “Quality of Government”, focus on positive attributes, notably impartiality, but this also fails fully to capture the notion of integrity: dishonesty can be impartial. Specific formal “codes” used within public life and among political practitioners can be much more nuanced than the most widely used measures, and can be much closer to what we understand—academically—as “integrity”. This paper argues that the hard conceptual and empirical work of elaborating integrity into a fully operationalizable concept offers the potential reward of an analytical concept that is more closely aligned with political reality.

Key words

integrity corruption public ethics politics 


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Copyright information

© Versita Warsaw and Springer-Verlag Wien 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Politics and International Relations University ParkUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamUK

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