The qualifying statements warrant methodological issues, beginning with the choices regarding actors, country, and sectors for any investigation. These choices are the result of overlapping experiences, interests, and objectives. The choice of social actors can be explained by the conclusions drawn from the discourses of the first, drawing on the academic discourse with regard to the relevance of professional associations. This encounter draws society’s attention to the vibrancy of a world hitherto off-radar-screen across countries and continents.
In an inquiry, we actually intend to undertake an examination of ‘the policies, laws, ideologies, etc.’ that govern thinking and acting about corruption, for we believe they have both a symbolic as well as the material effect that needs to be understood in more practical detail. But in line, we have to place our main analytical emphasis on the theoretical and empirical exploration of some of the myriad of processes through which social actors and discourses of corruption structure the social, political, and economical organization of society. This takes us to conclusions with a general overview and systematization over the findings undertaken, substantiating, enriching, and refuting key hypotheses across the whole inquiry. In particular, we society seek to carve out the political spaces and processes that particular social agents make and shape—and are made and shaped by. This all shouldn’t be understood only as institutional change or reform programs on a macro-level but understood as a purposeful struggle for the reorganization of the public realm by social actors.
In one of the first systematic studies of corruption in post-independence countries, McMullan comes to the conclusion that it “is part of the general conflict between the aims and the methods of the government and the society which is being governed that the subjective attitude of many officials in these countries should not be in harmony with their objective roles” (McMullan 1961), with “the colonial regime [being] the obvious historical source of the conflict between the government and the society” (McMullan 1961). Although the vocabulary may sound slightly dated, this analysis is echoed in many of the most noted and provocative contributions to the socio-political order of recent years. Like the seminal study by Chabal and Daloz on the instrumentalization of disorder in post-colonial states paints a picture of a colonial civil service that sought to devise pragmatic ways of adapting the imperial directives to the administration of its subjects rather than a method of inculcating new political and governmental habits. Moreover, the colonial experience showed how a ‘modern’ civic manner could be both arbitrary and personalized—characteristics that were infinitely more compatible with existing African practices than the original Western model (Chabal/Daloz 1999).
Judging from these seminal theoretical contributions set nearly four decades and development paradigms apart, several observations can be made. First of all, rather intriguingly, it seems that the essence of key hypotheses on the causes and consequences of corruption has not fundamentally changed in four decades, namely, that personalized and particularistic (in McMullan’s terminology: ‘subjective’) imperatives public institutions. This is surprising, given not just the time that has elapsed since then, but the fact that the geopolitical and economic realities of developing countries (and indeed of industrialized countries) have undergone fundamental structural transformations in the wake of the end of the Cold War and processes of communicative, financial and economic globalization. And in this context, the amount of targeted and conditional foreign aid that has been directed in the world to foster the rule of law and strong public institutions also merits attention.