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Strategies of Secession and Counter-Secession

Systemic Corruption in an Advanced Welfare State: Lessons from the Québec Charbonneau Inquiry

Political Economy
Denis Saint-Martin
Université de Montréal
Denis Saint-Martin
Université de Montréal

Québec is sometimes described as the “little Sweden of North America” because of its generous welfare state and family-friendly policies. And yet testimonies at the Charbonneau commission (a public inquiry into corruption that has been going on since 2012) point toward strong evidence of systemic corruption at the municipal level and in the construction sector. How can this be? Systemic corruption is not typically associated with advanced welfare states. I use the Québec case and interpret the evidence exposed at the Charbonneau inquiry to build a more robust model of institutional change in anticorruption studies. My key theoretical point is that the shift of societies from a systemically corrupt social order to a non or less corrupt one is not irreversible and never achieved definitively, as discontinuous models of institutional change lead us to believe.
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