T02P13 - Confronting Theories of Institutional Change in Anticorruption Research

Topic : Comparative Public Policy

Panel Chair : Denis Saint-Martin - denis.saint-martin@umontreal.ca

Panel Second Chair : Eric Montpetit - e.montpetit@umontreal.ca

Panel Third Chair : Patrik Marier - patrik.marier@concordia.ca

Objectives and Scientific Relevance of the panel

In recent years, new conceptions of systemic corruption as a dysfunctional informal institution consisting of a series of collective action dilemmas (social traps) have emerged in anticorruption research. These approaches emphasize the role of social norms and cultural beliefs as coordinating devices or mechanisms that sustain particular equilibria. Definitions of systemic corruption as an informal institution are a welcomed addition to the analyst’s toolkit. But they describe an all-encompassing form of corruption that leaves very little room for human agency. And they refer only to extreme cases, supposed to represent the exception more than the rule. This panel seeks to fill those gaps.

Call for papers

Systemic corruption is typically associated to the developing world, not to rich countries with advanced welfare states. In anticorruption studies, the theory is that these countries were once systematically corrupted, but broke free from it in a revolutionary moment of abrupt and wholesale transformation. Bo Rothstein calls this the “big bang approach” to change, which suggests that societies cannot escape the “social trap” of systemic corruption gradually, but only through “dramatic”, radical reconfigurations. The big question then becomes how systemically corrupt social orders make the transition to a non or less corrupt one? Discontinuous models of change exaggerate the rupture between past and present and pay insufficient to the adaptive nature of corruption networks in societies. This especially the case in the developed world, where the theory assumes that corruption is residual, but where instances of endemic corruption in banking (the LIBOR scandal in the UK), in engineering (the downfall of SNC-Lavalin in Canada) or in construction (the Schiphol train tunnel in The Netherland) have recently been uncovered and led to major public inquiries. This panel invites papers that address the issue of change in anticorruption research.

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