A Comparative Law Approach
Studies in Comparative Law and Legal Culture series
Edited by Jean-Bernard Auby, Emmanuel Breen and Thomas Perroud
Chapter 6: Condemning corruption and tolerating conflicts of interest: French 'arrangements' regarding breaches of integrity
Over the past fifty years, a telling evolution has taken place in the perceptions and definitions of 'corruption' and abuses of power by public officialdom. Up until a certain point, the problem was framed in either moral terms (self-interested abuses of power) or in juridical terms (any legally defined breach of public integrity). To be sure, 'corruption' was presented as an evil that had to be fought, but such symbolic affirmations dispensed with the task of interrogating either the complexity of the phenomenon, the considerable weakness (even absence) of any control, or the tolerance exercised towards numerous transgressions. The thinking on corruption has since evolved, becoming more realistic in the process, and approaching the question with a sociological and economic lens. This evolution is attested to by the recent attention brought to bear upon conflicts of interest in public decision-making in many countries around the world. In France, over the past years, the first elements of a debate had been stirred up by discussions concerning the revolving door separating high-ranking officials from the private sector, and the ability to combine positions of elected office with certain professions (lawyer, consultant). During the summer of 2010, a new 'crisis', provoked by media scrutiny focusing on a certain minister, sparked reactions of both the political and institutional kind.
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