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Anti-corruption in HistoryFrom Antiquity to the Modern Era$
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Ronald Kroeze, André Vitória, and Guy Geltner

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198809975

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198809975.001.0001

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Corruption and Anticorruption in the Era of Modernity and Beyond

Corruption and Anticorruption in the Era of Modernity and Beyond

(p.167) 11 Corruption and Anticorruption in the Era of Modernity and Beyond
Anti-corruption in History

Jens Ivo Engels

Oxford University Press

Introducing a detailed discussion of the modernization or transition thesis, this chapter argues that understandings of anticorruption did indeed change dramatically around 1800. The revolutionaries declared war on corruption and deemed practices that had been common during the Ancien Régime—especially patronage and the use of public positions for private gain—as corrupt. The consequences of this for anticorruption were far-reaching: the public and the private were more sharply separated and all “old” practices (or recent ones construed as such) were attacked with “new” anticorruption rules. The belief grew that corruption could be eliminated. However, the chapter tells a non-linear story: the essential ambivalence of modernization is fully reflected in anticorruption discourse and efforts. The more closely modern societies are looking for corruption, the more corruption they will find. As the transgression of the public-private-boundary is unavoidable, the success even of present-day campaigns is very limited.

Keywords:   corruption, anticorruption, modernization, revolution, Ancien Régime, patronage, public sphere

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