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2021 Conference of the ECPR Standing Group on Politics and Gender

The State of the Art in Corruption Research and an Agenda for the Future

Panel Number
Panel Chair
Paul Heywood
University of Nottingham
Panel Co-Chair
Alina Mungiu-Pippidi
Hertie School of Governance
Panel Discussant
Paul Heywood
University of Nottingham

24/08/2018 17:40 - 19:20
Building: VMP 5 Floor: 2 Room: 2101
After many decades when it was seen as a 'lesser evil', if not an enabling factor of development, corruption has more recently been acknowledged as a major threat to sustainable development and also to democratic consolidation and stability. This is not surprising, since the majority of states in the third wave of democracy remain in the lower two thirds of the 'control of corruption' World Bank indicator, whilst older democracies appear daily to offer less of a normative benchmark, with politicians thriving on conflicts of interest and elites evading taxes in off-shore dealings.

Yet, despite the fact that these trends have given rise to a huge increase in corruption research since the mid-1990s, scholars still contest some of the most basic questions about the topic. These include the very definition of 'corruption' as a concept, its causes, how we should go about measuring it, its impact, and how best to combat it. Arguably, about the only thing over which there is broad consensus amongst scholars is that corruption is a bad thing that causes major harm to individuals and societies and that it needs to be reduced.

At the same time, our knowledge about many aspects of corruption - including its signal importance as a factor in relation to both the origins of stable political orders and also why nations fail - has been significantly enhanced by the work of leading scholars working across several disciplines. Indeed, we know much more than we used to about many aspects of corruption, not least the need to link our understanding of broad trends and patterns with an appropriate focus on contextual specificity.

In particular, we need to move beyond the simplistic 'zero tolerance' messages and one-size-fits-all 'solutions' that too much of the past focus on corruption has delivered. As is now recognised, corruption is hugely complex, changes over time, manifests in myriad different ways, does not respect national borders, and even - in some circumstances - offers a survival mechanism to desperate people.

To make a real difference, therefore, we need to refocus our efforts to understand better when and why specific anti-corruption measures are feasible, how the nature of political settlements impact on the range of available options, and how we can learn from and scale-up success.

The panel invites paper that not only identify the state of the art on why different forms of corruption emerge and persist as well as how to develop effective anti-corruption policies at appropriate scale, but also (and especially) identify remaining gaps in our knowledge and understanding. In particular, we seek papers that explore key issues that we need to focus more attention on in relation to corruption. These might address theoretically or empirically important questions, including (but not restricted to) the relationship between corruption and, for example, inequality, elections, market influence, informal governance, populism, social media and wider technological change, or organised crime.

Paper List

Title Details
Corruption Talk: Mapping the Word Corruption in Online Text Data Across the World View Paper Details
Digitising the Anti-Corruption Sphere: Taking Stock and Looking Ahead View Paper Details
The Market as Anti-Corruption Agent View Paper Details
The Politics of the Anti-Corruption Policies in the ‘Lava Jato’ Era: When Frying ‘Big Fish’ is not Enough View Paper Details
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