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Concomitant and Legitimised Exchanges

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The mismanagement implies that the moral economy of corruption, embedded as it is in socio-culturally legitimizing logics, is ruptured; that the acquiescence of the population is framed by violence, only partially embedded in functional exchange relationships, such as between patrons and clients, or culturally legitimized exchanges within vertically structured networks and communities (religious, ethnic, regional, etc.).

Concomitantly, the political economy of corruption is being fundamentally transformed. Where the stakes grow exponentially through the internationalization of illegal trade and the growing opportunities of insertion into the global market (globalization and deregulation of the financial and commodity markets), the relationship between clients and patrons is becoming disjointed, or, more precisely, tilted in favor of the patrons. Their power is shored up by the availability of resources: the international networks, the finances, the arms to secure their influence without needing to consider their clients anymore. The line of inquiry pursued by (Bayart et al. 1999) seeks to unravel trends emerging in power and business order from a perspective of historically changing patterns and opportunities of accumulation. Here, post-colonial business structures are firmly set in an international (global) context of economic and political exchange, increasingly defined by the privatization of former key public institutions (such as the customs service or organs of public security), by the erosion of sovereignty to International Financial Institutions as a result of severe indebtedness and the concomitant rise in influence of other, non-governmental organizations such as the Church or aid agencies (Hibou 1999). So where does this leave the idea of the political order? Can post-colonial business rationale only be conceptualized as kleptocratic, even felonious states? Drawing on their historical understanding of emerging processes, Bayart and his fellow authors are more subtle in their analysis: World is resistant to every conditionality and its democratization remains a great leap into the unknown, considering the degree to which popular sovereignty is alienated and the systematic creation of shadow networks of power is being precipitated by the privatization of the economy.

But postcolonialism is busily recreating itself, and in this process, mismanagement is not shorn of all ‘usefulness’ (Bayart et al. 1999). The line of inquiry is based on the trenchant assumption that business politics in post-colonialism derives from an instrumentalization of business disorder; a disorder that they analyze not from the perspective of institutional decay but from the ‘rational’ utilization of such informal and opaque relations by adept social actors. Their key hypothesis is the following: In a world of disorder, there is a high premium both on the vertical and personalized infra-institutional relations through which the business of politics can be conducted and on access to the means of maximizing the returns which the ‘domestication’ of such disorder requires. [Disorder] should be seen as a condition that offers opportunities for those who know how to play that system. Whether, however, such a situation is conducive to (economic) development as it is normally understood is a totally different question. If, as we believe, the prevails of generalized disorder, then it behooves us to explain how such disorder is instrumentalized unjustified.

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