Explaining Corruption in the Developed World: The Potential of Sociological Approaches
Posted: 15 Aug 2016
Date Written: July 2016
Corruption, in both the developing and the developed world, has been studied in many disciplines, especially economics and politics, but there is considerable scope for a sociological contribution. There has been a large body of cross-national research using indices of perceived corruption, but the clandestine nature of corruption makes it difficult to validate these indices. More fruitful are recent surveys, similar to crime victimization surveys, of respondents' experiences of being asked for a bribe. This research has found many regularities, but understanding of the causal mechanisms involved remains sketchy. Sociological concepts derived from exchange theory, and sociological variables such as Protestantism, generalized and particularistic trust, and educational level appear to be important predictors of national rates of corruption in the developed world, but the mechanisms are not well understood. We argue that more focused and disaggregated research focusing on different forms and contexts, rather than the current broad-brush approaches, is the best way forward.
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