Corruption as a Political Phenomenon

  • Francis Fukuyama
Part of the International Economic Association Series book series (IEA)


Corruption—the appropriate of public resources for private purposes—is a modern phenomenon insofar as modern states are founded on the principle of the strict separation of public and private. This was not the case for much of human history, where “patrimonial” rulers regarded the public domain as a species of private property. Corruption needs to be distinguished from both rent-seeking and patronage/clientelism—in the first case, because many rents have perfectly legitimate uses, and in the second because clientelism involves a reciprocal exchange of favors and can be regarded as an early form of democratic participation. Moving from a patronage-based state to a modern-impersonal one is a fundamentally political act, since it involves wresting power away from entrenched elites who use their access to the state for private purposes. This is what happened during the Progressive Era in the US, and also what explains the relative success of anti-corruption bodies like Indonesia’s KPK.


Corruption Development Clientelism Patronage Rent-seeking 


  1. Basu, Kaushik. 2015. The Republic of Beliefs: A New Approach to ‘Law and Economics’. Policy Research Working Paper 7259. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  2. Doig, Alan, David Watt, and Robert Williams. 2007. Why Do Developing Country Anti-corruption Commissions Fail to Deal with Corruption? Understanding the Three Dilemmas of Organisational Development, Performance Expectation, and Donor and Government Cycles. Public Administration and Development 27 (3): 251–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Eisenstadt, Shmuel Noah, and Luis Roniger. 1984. Patrons, Clients and Friends: Interpersonal Relations and the Structure of Trust in Society. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Fukuyama, Francis. 2011. The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  5. ———. 2015. Why is Democracy Performing So Poorly? Journal of Democracy 26: 11–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. ———. 2014. Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  7. Heilbrunn, John R. 2004. Anti-corruption Commissions: Panacea or Real Medicine to Fight Corruption. Washington, DC: World Bank Institute. The Many Faces of Corruption.Google Scholar
  8. Johnston, Michael. 2005. Syndromes of Corruption: Wealth, Power, and Democracy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Khan, Mushtaq H., and Kwame Sundaram Jomo. 2000. Rents, Rent-Seeking and Economic Development: Theory and Evidence in Asia. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Kolstad, Ivar, and Arne Wiig. 2009. Is Transparency the Key to Reducing Corruption in Resource-Rich Countries? World Development 37 (3): 521–532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. López-Calva, Luis-Felipe, Jamele Rigolini, and Florencia Torche. 2012. Is There Such Thing as Middle Class Values? Class Differences, Values and Political Orientations in Latin America. Discussion Papers 6292. Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), Bonn.Google Scholar
  12. Mauro, Paulo. 1995. Corruption and Growth. The Quarterly Journal of Economics 110: 681–712.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Mauro, Paolo. 2004. The Persistence of Corruption and Slow Economic Growth. IMF Staff Papers 51: 1–18.Google Scholar
  14. McAdams, R. 2015. The Expressive Powers of Law: Theories and Limits. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Mungiu-Pippidi, A. 2015. The Quest for Good Governance: How Societies Develop Control of Corruption. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. North, Douglass C., John J. Wallis, and Barry R. Weingast. 2009. Violence and Social Orders: A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Piattoni, Simona. 2001. Clientelism, Interests, and Democratic Representation: The European Experience in Historical and Comparative Perspective. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Recanantini, Francesca. 2011. Effectiveness of Anti-Corruption Authorities (ACAs): Selected Emerging Lessons. Washington, DC: World Bank.Google Scholar
  19. Scott, James C. 1972. Patron-Client Politics and Political Change in Southeast Asia. American Political Science Review 66 (1): 91–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. World Bank. 2017. World Development Report 2017: Governance and the Law. Washington, DC: World Bank. Forthcoming.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Stanford UniversityStanfordUSA

Personalised recommendations