Democratization: Theory and Experience

By Laurence Whitehead | Go to book overview

5 On Political Corruption

In republics, persons elevated from the mass of the community, by the suffrage of their fellow-citizens, to stations of great pre-eminence and power, may find compensations for betraying their trust, which . . . may appear to exceed the proportion of interest that they have in the common stock . . .

(Alexander Hamilton)


Theory

'Corruption' is probably the most successful and enduring of all the vitalist metaphors that have been applied to political life. Whereas 'the body politic' now sounds archaic, and the 'head of state' has become no more than a figure of speech, the idea of a healthy political organism undergoing some progressive, but perhaps potentially reversible, degeneration still retains some of the analytical appeal that made it so influential in political theory.

Thus, the Greek ruler, Lycurgus

took the view that every type of constitution which is simple and founded on a single principle is unstable, because it quickly degenerates into that form of corruption which is peculiar to and inherent in it. For just as rust eats away iron, and woodworms or ship-worms eat away timber, and these substances even if they escape any external damage are destroyed by the processes which are generated within themselves, so each constitution possesses its own inherent and inseparable vice. Thus in kingship the inherent vice is despotism, in aristocracy it is oligarchy, and in democracy the brutal rule of violence.

So Lycurgus sought to save Sparta from this 'corruption' by adopting a mixed constitution, in which each element would be counterbalanced by the others. 1

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Democratization: Theory and Experience
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Oxford Studies in Democratization ii
  • Democratization iii
  • Acknowledgements v
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: On 'Democracy' and 'Democratization' 6
  • 2: The Drama of Democratic Transitions 36
  • 3: On Civil Society 65
  • 4: On Accountability and Institutional Design 90
  • 5: On Political Corruption 115
  • 6: On Monetary Authority 136
  • 7: On Citizen Security 165
  • 8: On Comparing Democratization Processes 186
  • 9: An Exemplary Case: Chile 213
  • 10: On Theory and Experience in Democratization Studies 237
  • Annex 271
  • Bibliography 275
  • Index 287
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