Anti-Anticorruption: Barry Hindess' Recent Work on Corruption

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The article puts the work of Barry Hindess in the context of other strands of research on corruption and anticorruption. This work can be found in a chapter of a book on Antipolitics, in a report he wrote for his Department's "Democratic Audit" of Australia, and in an article in Third World Quarterly. It has also been part of his doctoral supervision and teaching and his encouragement of the work of younger scholars. Running through his engagement with the history of the idea of corruption, and with definitions and deployments of the idea of corruption by the anticorruption nongovernmental organization (NGO) Transparency International (TI), were arguments with modern forms of liberalism and democracy as they operate internationally and in Australia.


corruption, anticorruption, transparency, international, neoliberalism, national integrity systema

Barry Hindess' work on corruption can be found in his writings on Antipolitics, (1) in a report he wrote for his university department's "Democratic Audit" of Australia, (2) and an article in Third World Ouarterly. (3) It has also been part of his doctoral supervision and his encouragement of the work of younger scholars, particularly at a European Consortium of Political Research meeting he convened with Luis de Sousa in Cyprus in 2006. Here, I want to put this work in the context of other strands of writing and research on anticorruption, particularly an American critique of the Progressive "anticorruption" project; arguments about how corruption should be defined; and an Eastern European critique of donor campaigns against corruption in transition economies.

Barry's writing also grew out a course we taught on "Corruption and Anti Corruption." The history of the idea of corruption became the subject of a conference that he organized with his doctoral student Manu Barcham called "Corruption: Expanding the Boundaries" at the Australian National University (ANU) in 2004. The definition and deployment of the idea of corruption by Transparency International (TI), the anticorruption NGO, became the subject of research project with Luis de Sousa and myself. (4) It drew on Barry's ideas about how liberalism operated between as well as within states, particularly toward the developing world. (5) Running through these are arguments with modern forms of liberalism, citizenship, and democracy that are considered in other articles in this issue.


In a section called "The Problem of Corruption" in his chapter on Antipolitics, Barry refers to persistent strand in Western political thinking that wants to distinguish two kinds of "politics," one of which is in danger of corrupting the other (or which may even be intrinsically corrupt). He is not talking about a contrast between politics and a quiet life. Rather one kind of politics is defended against corruption by another kind of more "political" politics. Thus, for example, the founders of the US constitution believed in popular government but were suspicious of the factionalism of politicians and parties. To understand this "denigration of politics," Barry turns to Hannah Arendt's discussion of the public and the private realm, (6) the emergence of an autonomous Weberian state, and modern demarcations between "public" and "private" lives. These demarcations are insecure and shifting. Governments may interfere with the properly private lives of citizens, and private concerns can corrupt government. Ironically, politicians can accuse each other of playing politics, but there is no way of stepping outside politics--though coup leaders claim to do so. Also ironically, states themselves are charged with protecting themselves against the corruption to which they are vulnerable.

Barry goes on to note that we now distinguish at least three spheres of activity: government, private, and civil. TI, the international NGO founded in 1993 that was the empirical focus of our research project, inhabited the latter. …


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