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corruption2.doc - Is corruption bad because of its effects...

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Is corruption bad because of its effects or because it is wrong in itself?’1549 wordsCorruption is generally understood to be dishonest actions taken by those in positions ofpower (Rose-Ackerman, 2004). Not surprisingly, theorizations of such a vague concept canvary significantly, giving rise to many different research foci all under the banner ofcorruption. Scholars focus on various aspects of corruption (Blau, 2009), but for the purposesof this essay, only economic forms of corruption, as defined by the widespread use of bribesin business dealings, will be examined. However, it will also be suggested that economiccorruption is interconnected with other forms of corruption, and that its analysis relates tovarious forms of political corruption when relevant. In analyzing economic corruption, it willargued that corruption is not universally negative, as it can be used to overcome deleteriousstructural problems in countries with inefficient or unfair regulatory structures. Nevertheless,these positive possibilities for corruption are outweighed vis-à-vis the myriad of negativeconsequences that arise from it. Therefore, the value of corruption should be understood in itseffects and not in its pure essence. The argument is made in several parts. The first section ofthe essay makes a philosophical argument for viewing corruption not merely as a concept inlanguage, but as a set of concrete and embodied practices. The second paragraph then shiftsto examining how some of these practices can give rise to positive, but often short-term,economic and social effects within the context of particular societies. The third paragraphthen examines the longer-term economic effects of corruption, finding them to beoverwhelmingly negative. The fourth paragraph extends this argument with empiricalanalyses, finding that corruption not only hinders economic growth but also spill into otherareas like law and human rights.1
The word corruption is derived from the Latin “corrumpere”, which means to utterly break orpervert (Redard, 1977). Yet, this abstract understanding of the term does little to describe theembodied practices, which the term is meant to denote. Instead, the term has deviated fromthis essential definition and has been displaced by a biased and more colloquial interpretationwith a pejorative bent. Use of such ambiguous language hinders one’s ability to understandthe ethics involved in the practices themselves. As Wittgenstein (1958) argues, ethics issomething that cannot be communicated so much as practiced. Following Wittgenstein’slogic, it can be suggested that concepts in language must be examined as they are definedthrough the social and environmental contingencies which produce them. Such an approachrequires an examination of corruption, not as an ontological concept, but as a set of looselycoupled practices, which emerge in particular institutional contexts. The ethical implicationsof such practices can be mixed, meaning that corruption as a category has no fixed ethical

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Term
Spring
Professor
TIM BALE

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