Anticorruption Law and Systemic Corruption: The Role of Direct Responses

34 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2021 Last revised: 2 Sep 2021

See all articles by Kevin E. Davis

Kevin E. Davis

New York University School of Law

Date Written: July 16, 2021


Recent discussions of systemic corruption have cast doubt on the effectiveness of direct legal responses, that is to say, responses that involve the enforcement of explicit legal prohibitions on corrupt activity. This essay argues that there are sound reasons to believe that anticorruption law can play an affirmative role in controlling systemic corruption, but the advantages or disadvantages of alternative legal responses are likely to vary depending on both the preferred evaluative criteria and the context. The analysis is premised on the idea that corruption becomes systemic when it is widespread, persistent, subversive, structural or normalized. There are three general ways in which law enforcement agencies might usefully respond to these forms of corruption: enhanced effort (“big push enforcement”), getting more agencies involved (“institutional multiplicity”), and confronting powerful actors using tactics such as communication strategies designed to win over the general public (“political engagement”). Although each of these responses has limitations and dangers, they also have potential advantages. Accordingly, calls to entirely dismiss direct legal responses to systemic corruption appear misguided.

Keywords: anticorruption law, systemic corruption, institutional multiplicity

Suggested Citation

Davis, Kevin E., Anticorruption Law and Systemic Corruption: The Role of Direct Responses (July 16, 2021). Revista Direito GV (Forthcoming), NYU School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 21-32, Available at SSRN:

Kevin E. Davis (Contact Author)

New York University School of Law ( email )

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