Social Norms and Attitudes Towards Corruption: Comparative Insights from East Africa

This eye-opening exploration of social norms and attitudes towards corruption appears in Chapter 12 of Ellis, Jane (ed.) Corruption, Social Sciences and the Law – Exploration across the disciplines, published by Routledge on 15 May 2019 as part of a series entitled The Law of Financial Crime. See the publisher's flyer with full details of the book and a 20% discount code.

Much of the original material for this chapter comes from a recent Basel Institute research project on Corruption, Social Norms and Behaviours in East Africa, commissioned by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) through its East Africa Research Fund (EARF).

Excerpt from the chapter introduction

Despite more than two decades of concerted efforts by the international development community to address corruption, progress remains far from satisfactory, especially in those countries where corruption is endemic and pervasive. Such cases of seemingly entrenched corruption highlight the importance of increasing our understanding about context-specific drivers of corrupt behaviours.

Traditionally, anti-corruption has focused on the incentives and constraints that impinge on individuals’ cost-benefit calculations and decision-making as determined by the law and associated regulatory frameworks. Nevertheless, a growing body of evidence suggests the relevance of more intuitive, automatic, quasi-rational and non-rational decision-making factors that take place in the subconscious mind  and which may be heavily influenced by contextual factors grounded in sociality, collective ways of thinking and culture. 

This chapter presents empirical evidence from the application of a behavioural research perspective to shed light on how collective practices of petty corruption are experienced, understood, and ultimately justified from the perspective of those directly engaging in them.
 

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