Understanding systemic corruption

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During the last two decades the debate about corruption and ways to understand and contain it acquired a new intensity and concentrated focus. However, applications to contain it sustainably are of mixed success. The World Bank (WB) defined corruption as “the abuse of public office for private gain”. This is one of the most commonly used definitions of corruption within the public domain. The expanded definition of the WB distinguishes between „isolated‟ and „systemic‟ corruption, World Bank Report (1997: 9-10). The WB‟s definition fails to accept the general nature of corruption as being systemic - a concept that suggests interdependence on deviate behaviour in public and/or private sector institutions. Corruption is a function of dishonesty, a lack of integrity and the abuse of private and/or public office for personal gain. In order to understand corruption systemically, it should be perceived as a subsystem of a social system that is embedded in ethics, the economy, politics, science and technology, and aesthetics. Systemic corruption is not only an impairment of integrity, virtue and moral principle(s), but a departure from the original purpose, processes, structure, governance and context of systems created with the intention to be pure and correct and to enable development. The multidimensional dynamics of corruption to take on various „masks‟, make it an elusive phenomenon. As a complex subsystem, corruption takes on a life of its own that is self sustaining - corruption strengthens corruption. Corruption is a pervasive social pathology with various co-producers that all contribute to corruption. In the absence of root causes, systemic corruption cannot be analysed but needs to be dissolved in the context of the particular environment, taking into consideration the interrelationships between its structure, purpose, governance and processes. To address corruption sustainably, corruption should be first be understood as a complex systemic phenomenon.



Systemic corruption, Corruption