The Mechanisms of Corruption: Interest vs. Cognition
paper starts by identifying a central theoretical problem in contemporary research about political corruption. While a lot of energy has been spent trying to figure out what types of political and economic institutions that relates to low corruption, very little is yet known about the process of changing government institutions in a severely corrupt country in to the better. We address this problem by combining existing explanations of corrupt behaviour with the theoretical discourse of path dependency in institutional analysis. Two self-reinforcing mechanisms are developed which identifies the intrinsic obstacles to change in corrupt political institutions. One mechanism is interest based (the strategic resistance from corrupt networks) while the other is based on cognition (selffulfilling expectations). Both are analysed with material form five international agencies’ methods for fighting corruption. The agencies are the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (ERBD), the European Council, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) the Swedish International Aid Organization (SIDA) and Transparency International (TI) The empirical analysis is based on policy documents and on thirteen interviews with persons in these agencies who are responsible for anti-corruption policy. The result is that corruption is reproduced over time due to resistance from strategic interests and due to the self-fulfilling character of expectations about corruption. We end the paper by discussing the relative weight of cognitive vs. interest based explanations in institutional analysis.
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