Conflict of Interest: Engaging with Alatas' Ideas in the Sociology of Corruption

By Ali, Khalidah Khalid | Global Business and Management Research: An International Journal, January 2017 | Go to article overview

Conflict of Interest: Engaging with Alatas' Ideas in the Sociology of Corruption


Ali, Khalidah Khalid, Global Business and Management Research: An International Journal


Introduction

Corruption is a controversial subject, yet it happens everywhere, be it in the civil services or the private sector. Corruption, in literal sense, is a form of conflict of interest; "a conflict that occurs when a personal interest interferes with a person's acting so as to promote the interests of another when the person has an obligation to act in that other person's interest" (Khalidah et al., 2014). In organizational contexts, conflict of interest arises when e mployees at any level have private interests that are substantial enough to interfere with their jobs or duties. When their interests lead them to act, it is detrimental to their employers' interests.

Objectives, Methodology and Significance of the study

Corruption, ethics and integrity have become important issues in the practice and theory of politics, public administration, law, economics and society nowadays. Gunna Myrdal in his Asian Drama identified corruption as a serious bottleneck for Asian development (Habibul Haque, 2004).

Assessing from the criticality of the corruption issue, this paper therefore aims to create awareness and develop public consciousness on corruption as a sinful crime and an act of social injustice. It thrives to initially introduce readers to the concept of conflict of interest and its classifications before discussing corruption within societal contexts. It will continue to retrospectively engage readers with the generated ideas and perceptions of corruption as showcased by a renowned South East Asian sociologist/socio-political scientist, Prof. Dr. Syed Hussein Alatas, in his famous masterpiece, The Sociology of Corruption (1975). This text was published when Malaysia was transforming from an agro-based to an industrial economy to sustain socio-economic progress and prosperity. It has been specially selected due to its wide, yet comprehensive coverage on corruption from societal dimensions. It is hoped that his ideas will be a source of reference and a piece of invaluable literature in the study of corruption while Malaysia is striving to combat this social disease.

As a methodology, this study uses secondary data and applies content analysis. The units of analysis include relevant texts, journal publications as well as selected online resources. Arguments from multidisciplinary viewpoints are derived after analyzing corruption from sociological and ethical perspectives. This study also applies intertextuality as a methodology in the process of analyzing Alatas' text on sociology of corruption. Intertextuality is the reference to or application of a literary, media, or "social text" within another literary, media, or "social text." One form of intertextuality is a brief or prolonged reference to a literary text in the second literary text (Schulze and Ramirez, 2007). The reader will realize this approach as we analyze Alatas' text in this qualitative study.

As a contribution, this paper will add to the limited local discourse studies on corruption within societal contexts. Next, we shall discuss the types of conflict of interest and actions taken by the Malaysian government to fight against corruption since independence.

Literatures and Discussion

Conflict of Interest: A Classification

Conflict of interest is a popular topic discussed at business ethics courses in higher learning institutions. The wake of 21st Century saw the collapse of giant American corporations such as Enron, World.Com and Tyco International due to conflict of interest scandals involving top management. In Malaysia, the Perwaja Steel, Bank Bumiputra, Bank Islam and Port Kelang Free Trade Zone cases are among the high level conflict of interest cases that have charted history in the banking and manufacturing sectors; not to mention the civil services (Khalidah et al., 2014).

Contemporary literatures highlight that there are several kinds of conflict of interest including biased judgment, direct competition, misuse of position or abuse of power and violation of confidentiality (Boatright, 2012; Velaquez, 2006; Shaw, 2011). …

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