Is Corruption Understood Differently in Different Cultures? Anthropology meets Political Science
This paper aims to investigate how ideas and socio-cultural preferences of “public” versus “private” account for the presence of bribery and corruption practices. Understanding corruption in terms of the differences that cultures attribute to what should be seen as private or public goods can provide new and unexpected implications not only for a general theory on this phenomenon, but more significantly for its high degree of variation among societies. The methodology chosen for this pa-per is based on a quantitative analysis of ethnographic data from the Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) that explores the relation between types of economic subsistence and cases in which issues of bribery are found. The variation in how bribery is understood in different cultures does not re-late to different moral understandings of the problem of corruption, but to how different societies value the difference, convertibility or blurring of goods belonging to the public and private spheres.
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