The charticle illustrates the idea about the structure of corruption being resolved into its main factors – form and content – and their respective breakdown into specific sub-elements. The common denominator of these types of social action is noncompliance with rules of public organisations and/or noncompliance with the politically defined aspects of the public interest. For these types to be identified as corruption, the form aspect of corruption – deliberate noncompliance for private gain – needs to be present. The idea conveyed by this concept is that corruption exchanges combine with specific forms of social interaction. Therefore the content aspect of corruption comes in “bundles” of actions, each bundle representing a specific form of noncompliance (violation) of rules or norms, which serve any client, groups of clients who also have additional social ties to the agent.
Form is the bribery aspect of corruption, i.e. the receipt of private gain by agents. Equating bribery with corruption might sometimes be misleading as it could narrow the scope of the exchange. If the form of corruption is defined as exchange of resources – private goods, money, services, control over one’s own actions, control over the outcome of events, etc. – rather than as exchange of specific resources (money and services), this component of the corruption act could better fit the numerous types of corruption exchanges that have been documented in different settings. Exchange of resources refers to a wider range of possible benefits: private goods, money, services, control over one’s own actions, control over the outcome of events and others. A broader understanding of the exchange would also enable the inclusion of more complex multilevel schemes for exchange of resources which include officials at different levels of the hierarchy of public organisations. The preferred type of resource to be used in the exchange depends on the actors involved, the specific situation, the cultural context and a multitude of other factors.
The content of the corruption exchange refers to the type of deliberate noncompliance with rules performed by the agent or enforcing compliance with the rules in case of the agent’s deliberate “dragging his feet.” Preoccupation with bribery per se has left this aspect of corruption neglected. However, recent developments have shown the need for a more in-depth analysis of dimensions of content. An interesting and empirically useful idea in this respect is about corruption being an “umbrella concept” encompassing certain social interactions, which have their own specific content in addition to corruption.
For more information see:
Coleman, J. (1994). Foundations of Social Theory. Cambridge, New York, etc.: Harvard University Press.
Varraich, A. (2014). Corruption: An Umbrella Concept, Working Paper Series 2014:05, Gothenburg: Quality of Government Institute; Rothstein, B. (Ed.). (2014). Social, Legal, Anthropological and Political Approaches to the Theory of Corruption. Quality of Government Institute.