Corruption and Norms


Edited by Ina Kubbe and Annika Engelbert

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, forthcoming December 2017).