The Relevance of Political Science
Edited by Sören Holmberg and Bo Rothstein
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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