The concern of development discourse with the institutional configuration of, first, the markets, and, secondly, the political order, highlighted the institutional deficiencies leading to rent-seeking and extortionary behavior of patrons and elites; the subsequent remedies, however, have failed significantly in their quest for effective and accountable institutions. If anything, the structural changes induced by liberalization and democratization seem to have amplified the struggles about domination and accumulation rather than mediated and confined them—observable in the intensified illegal and illegitimate instrumentalizations of the public domain, manifested in the totalisation of power structures which intermesh formal and informal networks, in the privatization of national and international resource extraction and accumulation, and in the consolidation of structural violence and physical coercion (Mbembe 2002).
In a radicalized reading, one could argue that the very basis of socialization (in Weber’s sense of ‘Vergesellschaftung’) is put into question. Where does that leave us with regard to the analysis of corruption? As tentatively proposed at the beginning of our articulations, the study of corruption allows for a probing study of the underbelly of societal relations, maybe to a greater extent than envisaged. Corruption, or rather, in Olivier de Sardan’s term, the ‘corruption complex’ is a key field providing insights into the topography of power and accumulation, into struggles about meanings and appropriations of legitimacy and authority. Significantly, these struggles are being carried out in sliding local, national, and international spaces by a variety of social actors, where corrupt structures and practices not only shape patterns of (legal and illegal, legitimate and illegitimate) power and accumulation but, transcending and compounding the above, the term ‘corruption’ are also used as a political resource providing the key to domestic and international funds and credibility.