Cultures of Corruption - An Empirical Approach to the Understanding of Crime

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Corruption A Cultural Lag?
Eastern and South-Eastern European societies are said to have a culture of corruption with roots back to the time of the socialist rule or even to the Oriental despotism (Wittvogel 1973). It seems as if this tradition has been overcome in the post-socialist transition. The nevertheless still existing and flourishing corruption has changed form and function. A shift from occasional petty corruption to structural large-scale corruption took place in these countries as a consequence of the modernisation of their societies. The obvious culture of corruption as a popular practice in everyday life disappeared and is substituted by hidden rent-seeking techniques, used by the economical and the political elite. In the context of sociological modernisation theory this phenomenon usually is interpreted as a symptom terminated to the passage from tradition to modernity and disappearing after the implementation of modern economic and political institutions.
On the other side modern Western countries like Germany and Great Britain are taken as proper societies without corruption. This perception is true in relation to the petty corruption in everyday life. To bribe a policeman or an official with the intention not to lose or to get a licence is neither usual nor rational in theses societies, because the relation between the state institutions and the people are based on trust in the proper functioning of the legal practices. But nevertheless there is hidden and endemic structural corruption, as everybody knows, in the construction industry and in the public health system for example. Here corruption is accepted. In other words: Corruption is not perceived as such, i.e. as a crime. In fact, one can say that the perception or better non-perception of corruption is a condition of its social practice. Corruption is primarily a problem of definition that differs from time to time, from place to place, and even between social (sub-)groups of a single society. Therefore we speak of cultures of corruption which, in consequence, raises a problem of understanding and the necessity of a cultural approach in the scientific study of the phenomenon. To view corruption
as a cultural problem is not merely an academic question of theorizing but of great practicalrelevance for the fight against this crime. The prevention policies that have been developed by the EU and implemented so far within individual member countries have in general been characterised by legislative, administrative and police force measures. These are based on a definition of corruption prevention developed in political and administrative institutions thatrely on a top-down procedure for its implementation.
Following the preceding arguments this concept of corruption seems to be insufficient both in the theoretical as well as the practical sense. To widen the scope of how to define and approach the problem an international research consortium started a comparative cultural study on Corruption in Europe. The project proceeds from the assumption that the considerably variable perceptions of corruption, determined as they are by cultural dispositions , have significant influence on a country s respective awareness of the problem and thereby on the success of any preventative measures. For this reason, the project purports to conduct not an inquiry into the nature of corruption as such , but rather into the perceptions of corruption held by political and administrative decision-makers in specific regions and cultures, those held by
actors representing various institutions and authorities, and above all by the citizens and the media in European societies.
As a consequence, the research has a dual focus: It operates both at the formal, institutional and at the informal, practical level. Analysing the counter-corruption policies and the socialcultural contexts they work in, the researchers investigate the fit between institutionalised prevention measures and how these are perceived in daily practice , as well as how EU candidate
countries and EU member countries as a result handle the issue of corruption. In a finalstep, it intends to make specific recommendations for readjusting this fit and to investigate which role the media play within this process in each individual country. Media do not have only a passive technical role in neutrally transmitting information. In modern societies, media have substantial influence on the social patterns of perception and recognition, for example on the definition of problems like crime and corruption. Hence, another crucial goal of the research project is to demonstrate that the media must be recognized as a powerful instrument in combating corruption.

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300 Sozialwissenschaften, Soziologie
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Corruption, Crime, Culture, Empirical
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ISO 690TÄNZLER, Dirk, 2007. Cultures of Corruption - An Empirical Approach to the Understanding of Crime
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@techreport{Tanzler2007Cultu-11454,
  year={2007},
  series={Crime and Culture : discussion paper series},
  title={Cultures of Corruption - An Empirical Approach to the Understanding of Crime},
  number={2},
  author={Tänzler, Dirk}
}
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    <dcterms:abstract xml:lang="eng">Corruption   A Cultural Lag?&lt;br /&gt;Eastern and South-Eastern European societies are said to have a  culture of corruption  with roots back to the time of the socialist rule or even to the  Oriental despotism  (Wittvogel  1973). It seems as if this tradition has been overcome in the post-socialist transition. The nevertheless still existing and flourishing corruption has changed form and function. A shift from occasional petty corruption to structural large-scale corruption took place in these countries as a consequence of the modernisation of their societies. The obvious  culture of corruption  as a popular practice in everyday life disappeared and is substituted by hidden rent-seeking techniques, used by the economical and the political elite. In the context of sociological modernisation theory this phenomenon usually is interpreted as a symptom terminated to the passage from tradition to modernity and disappearing after the implementation of modern economic and political institutions.&lt;br /&gt;On the other side modern Western countries like Germany and Great Britain are taken as proper societies without corruption. This perception is true in relation to the petty corruption in everyday life. To bribe a policeman or an official with the intention not to lose or to get a licence is neither usual nor rational in theses societies, because the relation between the state institutions and the people are based on trust in the proper functioning of the legal practices. But nevertheless there is hidden and endemic structural corruption, as everybody knows, in the construction industry and in the public health system for example. Here corruption is accepted. In other words: Corruption is not perceived as such, i.e. as a crime. In fact, one can say that the perception or better non-perception of corruption is a condition of its social practice. Corruption is primarily a problem of definition that differs from time to time, from place to place, and even between social (sub-)groups of a single society. Therefore we speak of  cultures of corruption  which, in consequence, raises a problem of understanding and the necessity of a cultural approach in the scientific study of the phenomenon. To view  corruption&lt;br /&gt;as a cultural problem  is not merely an academic question of theorizing but of great practicalrelevance for the fight against this crime. The prevention policies that have been developed by the EU and implemented so far within individual member countries have in general been characterised by legislative, administrative and police force measures. These are based on a definition of corruption prevention developed in political and administrative institutions thatrely on a  top-down  procedure for its implementation.&lt;br /&gt;Following the preceding arguments this concept of corruption seems to be insufficient both in the theoretical as well as the practical sense. To widen the scope of how to define and approach the problem an international research consortium started a comparative cultural study on Corruption in Europe. The project proceeds from the assumption that the considerably variable perceptions of corruption, determined as they are by  cultural dispositions , have significant influence on a country s respective awareness of the problem and thereby on the success of any preventative measures. For this reason, the project purports to conduct not an inquiry into the nature of corruption  as such , but rather into the perceptions of corruption held by political and administrative decision-makers in specific regions and cultures, those held by&lt;br /&gt;actors representing various institutions and authorities, and above all by the citizens and the media in European societies.&lt;br /&gt;As a consequence, the research has a dual focus: It operates both at the formal, institutional and at the informal, practical level. Analysing the counter-corruption policies and the socialcultural contexts they work in, the researchers investigate the  fit  between  institutionalised prevention measures and how these are perceived in  daily practice , as well as how EU candidate&lt;br /&gt;countries and EU member countries as a result handle the issue of corruption. In a finalstep, it intends to make specific recommendations for readjusting this  fit  and to investigate which role the media play within this process in each individual country. Media do not have only a  passive  technical role in  neutrally  transmitting information. In modern societies, media have substantial influence on the social patterns of perception and recognition, for example on the definition of problems like crime and corruption. Hence, another crucial goal of the research project is to demonstrate that the media must be recognized as a powerful instrument in combating corruption.</dcterms:abstract>
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