"Defining Corruption Down: How the West Created an Anti-Corruption Industry and Put Blinders on Its Own Misdeeds"
University Professor, School of Public Policy
Monday, March 24, 2014 at 7:15 p.m.
The "anti-corruption industry" of the 1990s and 2000s, with economists and World Bankers at the helm, defined corruption narrowly--as synonymous with bribery. Corruption was typically not about us, but about those "Others." These approaches made it difficult to see the highly flexible and mobile forms of corruption that debuted over the past several decades with the privatization of government, the diffusion of global authority, and the development of new information technologies. These new forms of corruption are often more pernicious to the public good - a middle manager taking a bribe is obviously corrupt, but is that more "corrupt" than Goldman Sachs advising near-bankrupt countries like Greece on how to hide their debt? Corruption needs to be reconceptualized to better fit our era. A return to classic understandings of corruption, such as those revealed in texts such as the Bible and the Qur'an, may better serve both the study of corruption and efforts to counter it.