Corruption as a Social Deviant

Essay on Corruption as a Social Deviant

Corruption is generally defined as the action of private individuals or companies who abuse by public resources for private interest.

Arnold Heidenheimer (1993) saw corruption as the dysfunctional process by which good political order into evil one and a monarchy into a despotism. Social and political life has corrupted man. Corruption can be considered to be a behavior that deviates from the norm while it is more prevalent in the political system. Corruption as a deviant behavior is associated with different motivations which are selfish at the expense of the public.

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Arnold Heidenheimer (1993) stated that the concept of corruption in a way that constitutes a break of law or of standards of high moral conduct.

Katsenelinbogen (1983) in Voskanyan Frunzik (2000) identifies two types of corruption.

  1. Actions whose harmful effects on society are questionable. This form could involve redesigning him system and legalizing certain actions.
  2. Actions that unambiguously harm society.

Simona-Roxana Ulmana (2013) states that the local, national and global programs for the illness control, against the pollution and violence, the judicial, monetary and for the environment protection regulations, good quality governance, the individual and collective security, the actions for influencing competitiveness (legislation, context-conditions, economic politics) represent significant selected taking into consideration the rigor and the qualities of the market criteria. Simona-Roxana Ulmana (2013) also points out that the regulatory market functions acts in correlation with those of different organizations: companies, civil society structures, professional and public administration associations.

When the self-interest is over the social interest, these functions degenerate and income inequality, illegitimate economic biases, disadvantageous conjunctures generating negative externalities inevitably appear. One of such problems generated by the misconduct of the public institutions is corruption Simona-Roxana Ulmana (2013).

Corruption has persisted in society over years hence affecting the credibility of public institutions around the globe where all nations complain of corruption. The Corruption Perception Index 2012, shows that no country has a maximum score which showing that it is totally clean of corruption. Different scholars describe corruption as a social waste which affects growth, increasing inequality and poverty, provoking distrust, anger and instability. Countries that are not able to control and eliminate corruption have major losses both socially and economically. This has made the political leadership to prioritize on dealing and fighting the unpleasant phenomenon

Corruption is as a result of public officials who abuse their power and channel public resources to their personal benefit of use their public offices to selfishly and unethically get resources.

Andvig and Fjeldstad, (2001) give the different aspects of corruption starting from bribes including kickbacks, baksheesh, pay-offs, gratuities, commercial arrangements, etc.; favoritism and nepotism; blackmailing; protection or security money; gifts and under-the-table fees; embezzlement; extortion and ending with fraud.

The broad scope of corruption include:

  • Economic corruption: this involve exchange of cash of material goods.
  • Social corruption: This involve clientelism, nepotism and favoritism

Different scholars have different perspectives on corruption, Lindgreen (2004) in Simona-Roxana Ulmana (2013) considers three perspectives of corruption in the following:

  1. The political perspective:

The political perspective centers the state as one of the most important elements of the economic development and a country economic system plays an important role in the problem of corruption, which can be avoided only if the country is democratic. From this perspective, corruption disadvantages the relations between authorities, economical agents and private individuals, reducing allocative efficiency and economic growth, increasing income inequality, eroding confidence in public institutions, reducing the willingness of investors to invest and encouraging a culture of poor public service (Merwe and Harris, 2012, in Simona-Roxana Ulmana, 2013)

  1. The economic perspective

This perspective stipulate that evolution of the economy leads to the reduction of corruption. Corruption disadvantages the relations between authorities, economical agents and private individuals, reducing allocative efficiency and economic growth, increasing income inequality, eroding confidence in public institutions, reducing the willingness of investors to invest and encouraging a culture of poor public service (Merwe and Harris, 2012, in Simona-Roxana Ulmana, 2013).

  1. The anthropological perspective.

The anthropological perspective relates corruption with culture as an element from the discipline cultural dimension. As the discipline is more imposed by the authorities, the chance of the corruption to be at a high level is substantially diminished (Simona-Roxana Ulmana, 2013).

Types of Corruption

1 Grand Corruption

This is the act of exploitation of power by the political elite to make economic policies.

A corrupt political elite can change either the national policies or the implementation of national policies to serve its own interests at some cost to the populace; public spending is diverted to these sectors where gains from corruption are greatest; also little attention is paid to whether the needs of the collectivity are served by those works or services (Porta and Vannucci 1997in Dr. Ahmad M. Marshal 2011).

This type of corruption is difficult to identify and measure especially when at least some segments of the population will gain.

It may have very serious consequences for a society. To study the link between this type of corruption and the cost of misdirected public policies is difficult because of the lack of precise measurements tools.

However, the extreme situations of this type of corruption are somewhat easier to study where a dictator makes no distinction between his own wealth and that of the country or makes policy decisions that serve exclusively his own interests.

2- Bureaucratic Corruption

This is the corrupt acts of the appointed bureaucrats in their dealings with either their superior (the political elite) or with the public. In its most common form, usually known as petty corruption, the public may be required to bribe bureaucrats either to receive a service to which they are entitled or to speed up a bureaucratic procedure. Corruption in the judiciary, where bribes can lower either the costs or the chances of legal penalties (Rose-Ackerman 1998 in Dr. Ahmad M. Mashal 2011) is another form of this type of corruption. Models for this type of corruption have relied on equilibrium in markets for supply and demand of services which in turn leads to the analysis of costs and revenues associated with these services.

3- Legislative Corruption

This refers to the manner and the extent to which the voting behavior of legislators can be influenced. Legislators can be bribed by interest groups to enact legislation that can change the economic rents associated with assets. This type of corruption would include “vote-buying”. (Rose-Ackerman 1999 in Ahmad Mashal 2011)

Causes of corruption

Factors that promote corruption

Vito Tanzi (1998) categorize the factors that promote corruption into two.

  1. Direct factors
  2. Indirect factors

Direct factors

Regulation and authorizations

In many countries the state use regulations and or rules. This results to the state giving permits, licenses and authorizations to engage in various activities. This include but not limited to running businesses, investments, building houses etc. Government officials must authorize the activity hence contacting several public servants. This give monopoly to the officials and as a result creating a window of opportunity for corruption. The officers could intentionally refuse of=r delay authorization and extracting bribe from those who need authorization or permits to conduct different activities. Vito Tanzi (1998) points out that in some countries some individuals become middlemen or facilitators for obtaining these permits. He points out that the fact that the fact that some authorization can be obtained from only a specific office these authorizations gives the bureaucrats a great amount of power and good opportunity to extract bribes.


Vito Tanzi (1998) points out that taxes based on clear laws and not requiring contacts between taxpayers and tax inspectors. He points out different scenarios which could give an opening for corruption. They include:

  • Having difficult laws that can be interpreted differently this needing taxpayer’s assistance in complying with them.
  • Lack of frequent contact between the tax payer and the tax administrator.
  • Low tax administrators’ wages
  • Ignoring acts of corruption by tax administrators.
  • Lack of transparency in the administrative procedures
  • Weak controls by the state on agents charged with the function.

Spending decisions

Some government or state officials approve some projects since they give opportunity to earn commissions for some political groups. This hence reduces the productivity of expenditure. Some officials during procurement of goods and services sharply increase the cost allowing for corruption.

Indirect factors

Quality of bureaucracy

Different countries have different levels of bureaucracy. Some bureaucracies are essential while others only create avenues for corruption.

Level of public sector wages

It has been observed that the level of wages highly contribute to the increase on corruption. This have seen increase in wages especially in key areas such as tax agents.

Penalty systems

Very few are punished for the acts. When strict punishment are put in place this result to the reduction of corruption. When there is not serious penalties for corrupt persons the result is then increase in the level of corruption. Vito Tanzi (1998) gave an example of china which had applied a death penalty to individuals accused of corruption. Meanwhile the many corruption cases go unpunished.

Institutional controls

Effective institutional or state controls together with honest officers who have clear rules on ethical behavior should be able to discourage corruption. Those with supervisory roles should be able to ensure their subordinates are ethical. Vito Tanzi (1998) gave examples of countries that created anti-corruption oversight authorities which were independent from the political establishments and which had personnel of high integrity. This helped in the reduction of corruption.

Transparency of rule, laws and processes

Some countries lack transparency in their processes which create a breeding ground for corruption. Laws are written in such complexities that can only be understood by lawyers.

Examples by the leadership

The leaders influence the level of corruption in an organisation or a state. If the heads of different institutions or state are corrupt it would be difficult for their employees to be corruption free.

Vito Tanzi (1998) gave examples of some of some leadership corruption scenarios that could influence the rise of corruption. He gives an example of an African country where the president refused to fire ministers widely reputed to corruption. In an Asian country a minister accused of corruption was moved from one ministry to another. Such examples show that it would not be easy to have a corruption free society if the leadership is not willing to deal methodically with corruption at high levels.

Effects of Corruption

We can summarize the consequences of corruption as follows:

  1. Reduce the ability of the government to impose regulatory controls
  2. Distorts incentives
  3. Lower investment, including foreign direct investment.
  4. Reduced Economic growth.
  5. A shift in the composition of government spending from more productive to less productive activities.
  6. Greater inequality and high incidence of poverty.
  7. Reducing the efficiency of aid.
  8. Exposing the country to currency crises
  9. Reduce legitimacy of the market economy and democracy
  10. Distort the main role of the government
  11. High cost of services and goods
  12. Increase poverty levels

The Moral view of corruption

Davide Torsello and Bertrand Venard (2015) state that the issue of molarity in relation to public officers who seek to serve their own interest through bribes gifts, and favors is the subject of extensive debate in the ethnographic literature on corruption. From an anthropological perspective morality is not a homogenous and universal phenomenon. Anthropologist see molarity drawing from the social customs. Anthropologist thus analyse corruption from the point of view of the people concerned. Leff (1964) in Davide Torsello and Bertrand Venard (2015) has argued that the widespread condemnation of corruption constitutes a major obstacle to research because it hinders an objective examination of the concept.

The debate of molarity has led to the development of relativism by Franz Boaz who view the world as having different culture where there is no one which is particularly superior to the other. Cultural relativism is widely accepted by anthropologist thus making the study of corruption by anthropologist be from the point of view of the indigenous peoples.

Davide Torsello and Bertrand Venard (2015) points out that One problem with approaches focusing on the moral aspects of corruption is that these moral aspects tend to be socially and culturally specific. The moral order approach alone is not sufficient to understand corruption. For example, the role of the state, the local tradition of social movements, the role of social networks in framing identity, and the role of informal networks and exchange practices all have different meanings in particular contexts. The importance given to moral dimension in the analysis of corruption leads researchers to forget that corruption practices are strongly embedded in ordinary forms of sociability, influenced by culture.

Davide Torsello and Bertrand Venard (2015) As a result of a number of culturally constructed practices (gift giving, brokerage, solidarity networks, predatory authority, and redistributive accumulation), corruption becomes a commonly accepted practice.


Corruption has been a great problem in society for a long time and has turned to be one of the big topics been debated upon today. Corruption is in a large way a social problem/ evil which has had a big impact on development of nations. Meanwhile while focusing on the moral perspective of Corruption from an anthropological point of view, we have come to the conclusion that the determination of what is a corrupt practice varies from one culture to the other. Anthropologist are in favor of studying the phenomenon in a cultural specific way since what one culture might consider as a corrupt practice the other culture would term it as not being a corrupt practice.

References: Corruption as a Social Deviant

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Eliasberg, Wladimir. “Corruption and Bribery”, Criminology & Police Sci. 317 (1951-1952)


Heidenheimer, J. Arnold; Michaek Johnston; and Victor T. Le Vine. Political Corruption.

New Jersey: Transaction Publishers (1993)

Kristin, Tone Sissener “Anthropological Perspectives on Corruption” Michelsen Institute Development Studies and Human Rights, (2001)

Leff, Nathaniel H. “Economic Development through Bureaucratic Corruption”.

American Behavioral Scientist, (1964). 8: 291–303


Mashal, Ahmad. “Corruption and Resource Allocation Distortion for “ESCWA” Countries” International Journal of Economics and Management Sciences Vol. 1, No. 4 (2011), pp. 71-83

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Tanzi, V. and Davoodi, H. R. Corruption, Public Investment, and Growth. Working

Paper of the International Monetary Fund, Fiscal Affairs Department (1998)

Torsello, Davide and. Venard, Bertrand. “The Anthropology of Corruption”, Journal of Management Inquiry, January issue, Vol 25(1), (2016). pp. 34-54.

Voskanyan, Frunzik. “A Study of the Effects of Corruption on Economic and Political Development of Armenia”. Yerevan, Armenia. American University of Armenia, 2000

Zamahani Majid. “The political and social- Economic Causes of Corruption Case study of Iran” International Business Management 10 (7). (2016) 1263-1269

Corruption as a Social Deviant Essay