Edited Book Volumes


Edited Volume on Gender and Corruption: The Role of Norms

by Ina Kubbe and Ortrun Merkle

<span>Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@yasinyusuf?utm_source=unsplash&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_content=creditCopyText">Yasin Yusuf</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/s/photos/norms?utm_source=unsplash&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_conten

Previous research has indicated that complex links between gender and corruption exist (Stensöta & Wängnerud, 2018). The discussion until now has mainly been dominated by the analysis of the relationship between high levels of corruption and low levels of gender inequality, in particular in political participation (Dollar et al. 2001; Swamy et al. 2001).


Current debates on the question can be divided into three strands: 1) Differences in attitudes towards and perception of corruption; 2) Differences in acting corrupt; and 3) Gender mainstreaming and corruption


Despite a growing body of research, we still have a lack of knowledge on the specific nature of these relationships, the underlying mechanism, dynamics and casualties behind and what is surprisingly missing from the debate is the question of which underlying norms shape the relationship between corruption and gender. While the current debates touch on this issue, it is usually only done implicitly. The discussion around why women might be less corrupt than men for example focuses on arguments around women being more “other-regarding”, caring less risk-averse, more honest and ethical. As mothers (take on more unpaid domestic work) women are considered to be driven by specific values and norms rather than by material gain and therefore are less prone to dishonest behaviour as well as corrupt actions. Furthermore, women tend to be less selfish, more trustworthy, emphatic, compassion, charitable, public-spirited or altruistic than men (Gilligan 1982; Boehm, 2015).


As existing debates frequently touch on questions regarding norms, e.g. that women are less corrupt, or more honest, or due to their position in society more vulnerable and more often victims of corruption in certain sectors (e.g. education, health). As a result, women are often considered as the new anti-corruption force, as political cleaners - also called the fairer-sex-hypothesis. Yet, this discussion, with some exceptions, often treats gender as a monolith that in turn reinforces gender stereotypes and does not get explored in more depth.


This book aims to start closing this gap, by examining the relationship between corruption and gender with a focus on norms. Norms are usually defined as rules or expectations that are socially enforced and can be prescriptive (by encouraging positive behavior) or proscriptive (discouraging negative behavior). According to Horne (2017), norms can refer to patterns of behavior and internalized values and contribute to social order. Therefore, norms can dictate the extent to which individuals engage and expect others to engage in corruption. Furthermore, Cialdini et al. (1991) define descriptive norms as an individual’s perceptions of what is commonly done in specific situations, without assigning judgment, while an injunctive norm dictates how an individual should behave.


Our book concentrates on the role of informal (social) and formal (institutional) norms in the description, explanation, prediction and combating of corruption and increasing gender equality. Social norms are cultural products including values, customs and traditions, but also formal institutions that shape an individual’s basic knowledge of what others do (descriptive norms) and what others think they should do (injunctive norms). However, while formal norms are directly observable, informal norms are more difficult to capture empirically and to isolate from other influences. Nevertheless, they play a central role in explaining corruption and anti-corruption (Jackson & Köbis, 2019) and thus require particular consideration (Kubbe and Engelbert 2018). Due to the nature of social norms that are embedded in personal, local and organizational contexts, the contributions in the book focus on the individual and institutional level of analysis (micro- and meso-mechanisms) and aim to explain norms themselves in the triangle with corruption and gender with special focus on the questions of which ones, how and why?


In particular, gender norms play an important role in how corruption is experienced. While norms have often been discussed implicitly when talking about corruption and gender, this volume for the first time wants to shed light on the many different ways in which norms impact how women experience corruption, how they participate in corrupt acts, and how they can play a role in fighting it.


We are interested in contributions that explore how forms and experiences of corruption differ by gender. For example, it has been discussed that forms of corruption are highly gendered (e.g. sextortion) (Towns 2015) and we need to broaden the male-centric view of corruption (Merkle 2017). One major factor here is that men are often more powerful and enjoy greater social status and there are gendered differences in access to power. Chapters could also explore how stereotypes and discrimination between men and women are directly related to corruption and shape how men and women are affected by corruption.

Similarly, we seek contributions who discuss the role of norms that shape how participation in corrupt acts is gendered. Do men and women really have a different propensity to participate in corruption or do societal norms shape access to corrupt opportunities?

Last but not least, we are interested in contributions that explore the gendered nature of being involved in the fight against corruption. Which norms do hinder or help the fight against corruption and is this different for men and women?


We are looking for studies from all regions in the world that have a specific focus on the corruption and gender nexus from a norm perspective.


Interested in contributing to the special issue?

Please send the following information by December 20:

  • abstract of 250 words of your proposed paper,
  • including the paper’s title,
  • author name[s]/affiliation[s]
  • short author bio(s) of 100 words


Your paper should be relevant and strongly connected to the described main issues at hand.

Your paper should

  1. have a strong evidence base for proposed arguments;
  2. avoid advocacy except for recommendations that rest on analysis and evidence;
  3. clearly show the advance over existing knowledge; and
  4. be empirical for the most part, and not based mostly on reviews of existing work.


We are in preliminary discussions with Edward Elgar Publishing who have expressed initial interest in the project.

Final chapters should be around 6000 words and will be due at the end of March 2021.

Please send your abstract and required information to:


Ina Kubbe (Tel Aviv University): inakubbe@gmail.com


Ortrun Merkle (United Nations University-MERIT/Maastricht University): merkle@merit.unu.edu

Edited by Ina Kubbe and Annika Engelbert

Reviews of the Book

"Kubbe and Engelbert have put together a fascinating volume ona very timely and important topic. Analyzing corruption from a social norms perspective turns out to be both very innovative and productive in terms of substantial research results. This a stellar book, simply a 'must read' for everyone interested in the complex issue of corruption. "

- Professor Bo Rothstein, August Röhss Chair in Political Science at University of Gothenburg

"A 'must read' for anyone looking for a deeper understanding of what we characterise as 'corruption' and why. This book exposes the many interests, norms, and values that informally support corruption and opens up discussion on what needs to change for anti-corruption initiatives to work. Interdisciplinary, insightful and scholarly."

- Associate Professor Kath Hall, Australian National University



The impact of corruption, generally understood as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain, on all areas of social life suggests that it is vital for the people’s well-being to understand why we sometimes act corruptly and sometimes not. Previous research offers different theoretical and conceptual approaches and includes a variety of causal explanations for the emergence of corruption – ranging from institutional settings and individual motives to culturally influenced norms or values. Conceiving corruption as a part of everyday life, constructed by specific traditions, values, norms and institutions, our book focuses in particular on the role of norms in the description, explanation, prediction, and combat of corruption. Norms are cultural products including values, customs and traditions, but also formal institutions that shape an individual’s basic knowledge of what others do and what others think they should do. They dictate the extent to which individuals engage and expect others to engage in corruption. However, while formal norms are directly observable, informal norms are more difficult to capture empirically and to isolate from other influences. Nevertheless, they play a central role in explaining corruption and require particular consideration.

The individual chapters collected in our book project “Corruption and Norms” concentrate on the relationship between corruption and social as well as legal norms, and provide perspectives from different academic disciplines, theoretical and methodological backgrounds, and various regions or countries. The book is divided into three parts. Part I presents theoretical, empirical cross-country and experimental findings on the influence of social norms on the occurrence of corruption, such as fairness, gender equality, religiosity, interpersonal trust, reputation and reciprocity, and on the role of the media in the perception of corruption and norms. Part II is dedicated to country case studies on South Africa, Brazil, Uzbekistan and Kosovo that illustrate the impact of informal norms on political and bureaucratic corruption and anti-corruption strategies. This part is complemented by an experimental case study on social norms and corrupt behavior in Germany and the U.S. in a comparative perspective. Part III turns towards the question on how global anti-corruption norms are constructed, interpreted and transformed by local culture, conflicting legal norms, and political and private-sector interests. Thus, by synthesizing different theoretical and empirical approaches, the book offers innovative analysis and solution strategies on the micro- (individuals), meso- (institutions), and macro-level (states). It is meant to advance state-of-the-art research on corruption by providing a broad, yet detailed overview specifically on social norms – an area that has so far been neglected in the academic discourse centered around formalistic-institutional solutions to curb corruption (Palgrave Macmillan 2018).


The book is available here



Edited by Ina Kubbe and Aiysha Varraich

Description of the book

This book investigates the pervasive problem of corruption across the Middle East and North Africa. Drawing on the specifics of the local context, the book explores how corruption in the region is actuated through informal practices that coexist and work in parallel to formal institutions.

When informal practices become vehicles for corruption, they can have negative ripple effects across many aspects of society, but on the other hand, informal practices could also have the potential to be leveraged to reinforce formal institutions to help fight corruption. Drawing on a range of cases including Morocco, Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan, Tunisia or Israel the book first explores the mechanisms and dynamics of corruption and informal practices in the region, before looking at the successes and failures of anti-corruption initiatives. The final section focuses on gender perspectives on corruption, which are often overlooked in corruption literature, and the role of women in the Middle East.

With insights drawn from a range of disciplines, this book will be of interest to researchers and students across political science, philosophy, socio-legal studies, public administration, and Middle Eastern studies, as well as to policy makers and practitioners working in the region.


The book is available here