Political Corruption: In and beyond the Nation State

Political Corruption: In and beyond the Nation State

Political Corruption: In and beyond the Nation State

Political Corruption: In and beyond the Nation State


Robert Harris argues that any analysis of political corruption focusing on the nationstate or on miscreant individuals has been rendered obsolete by developments in globalized finance and international organized crime. Rather political corruption is a structural problem, involving the extension of the normal processes of politics into illegitimate areas of activity.


Why has not man a microscopic eye?

For this plain reason, man is not a fly.

(Alexander Pope, Essay on Man, I, 193-194)

The literature of political corruption is remarkable in terms of subject matter, disciplinary background and the ambitions (normative or analytic) of the writers. This does rather mean, however, that while the smorgasbord is a glittering feast of contrasting foods from all round the world, the price one pays for this variety is the absence of a wholly satisfying home-cooked meal. We cannot examine the literature of political corruption as we can that of Doric architecture or fibre optics because its very nature means that its study cannot operate within a single set of disciplinary boundaries.

Understandably given the nature of the topic, most texts are edited collections. These range from the vast compendia associated with Heidenheimer (most recently Heidenheimer and Johnston 2002) and, at much higher cost, Williams (Williams 2000a; Williams and Theobald 2000; Williams et al. 2000; and Williams and Doig 2000) to more modest multi-disciplinary collections, normally clustered round a sub-theme. These collections are without exception valuable, and though inevitably some of them, for example Levi and Nelken (1996a), Heywood (1997) and Doig and Theobald (2000), contain contributions of mixed quality, in all cases the best is very good indeed. Among these collected editions Heyman (1999) contains especially valuable material, both in terms of the overall quality of scholarship and for a rigorous editorial selection policy which, by combining conceptual consistency with substantive diversity, offers genuine scope for identifying likeness in things unlike. As such, it constitutes a step towards the elusive goal of a comparative approach. Other studies offer tentative comparisons, typically of countries geographically contiguous or with cultural, racial or historical similarities, though few develop a systematic comparison of specified variables. Certainly there is as yet insufficient agreement on how best Lancaster and Montinola’s stringent conditions to meet:

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