Good Government
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Good Government

The Relevance of Political Science

Edited by Sören Holmberg and Bo Rothstein

In all societies, the quality of government institutions is of the utmost importance for the well-being of its citizens. Problems like high infant mortality, lack of access to safe water, unhappiness and poverty are not primarily caused by a lack of technical equipment, effective medicines or other types of knowledge generated by the natural or engineering sciences. Instead, the critical problem is that the majority of the world’s population live in societies that have dysfunctional government institutions. Central issues discussed in the book include: how can good government be conceptualized and measured, what are the effects of ‘bad government’ and how can the quality of government be improved?
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Chapter 13: Rethinking the Nature of the Grabbing Hand

Anna Persson, Bo Rothstein and Jan Teorell


Anna Persson, Bo Rothstein and Jan Teorell* A little more than a decade ago, Alan Doig (1998, p. 99) argued: [W]hile there is substance to the belief that fire-engines cannot be designed without a thorough understanding of the fire they are intended to put out, there is also a sense in which the pervasiveness and tenacity of the current fires of corruption are such that action rather than refining theories and processes is what is now required. Given the widely acknowledged negative effects of corruption on social, economic, as well as political development, Doig could probably not be more right about the great urgency of the corruption problem. However, having said this, this chapter strongly disagrees with Doig’s claim that the refining of theories should now stand back in favor of action. In fact, quite contrary to Doig’s claim, we hold that one of the main reasons why the vast majority of the world’s population continues to suffer under thoroughly corrupt systems of rule is that not enough attention has been paid to the ways in which the theoretical characteristics of corruption vary with different contexts. On the basis of this critique, this chapter calls for a more contextsensitive approach to the analysis of corruption. In particular, we argue that – to effectively be able to put out “the current fires of corruption” – we need to acknowledge the different theoretical characteristics of systemic versus non-systemic corruption. Until now, academics and policy makers have tended to treat those two phenomena as...

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