‘Corruption’ represents the normative perception of capitalist ‘excess’: the culmination of the systemic process of collusion among economic and political elites that results—contrary to democratic theory—in the ‘re-confusion’ of public and private spheres. In the first part of this chapter, I explain the social implications of the normative definition; in the second part, I analyse the structural factors in the systemic process: incompatibility, collusion and corruption.
Corruption: structural condition, normatively defined
Normative definition provides the starting-point from which to consider two major forms of corruption: corruption in relation to democratic theory and historic practice (‘power corruption’) and in relation to democratic practice in the age of capitalism (‘political-economy corruption’). The implications of normative definition point, first, to the modern distinction between ‘public’ and ‘private’, which is basic to legal-rational politics and administration; and second, to the debate over restricted (legalistic) definition or broad (social) definition of corruption.
The latter debate, in turn, is directed not only to the related issue of ‘procedural’ or ‘substantive’ definitions of democracy but also, and by extension, to the ‘exclusivist’ notion of democracy and capitalism in which each is considered to be a self-contained entity, as endorsed by mainstream political science. This is in contrast to the ‘inclusivist’, or political-economy, conception of interacting political and economic systems. Now, the choice between ‘narrow’ and ‘broad’ perspectives in all three cases—democracy, corruption and capitalism—is crucial to understanding their roles in the modern world.