Dennis Thompson Photo

Dennis Thompson

Appointment
Alfred North Whitehead Professor of Political Philosophy, Emeritus, FAS and HKS

Thompson, Dennis F. "Theories of Institutional Corruption." Annual Review of Political Science 21.1 (May 2018): 495-513.

Abstract

Normative theorists of corruption have developed an institutional conception that is distinct from both the individualist approaches focused on quid pro quo exchanges and other institutional approaches found in the literature on developing societies. These theorists emphasize the close connection between patterns of corruption and the legitimate functions of institutions. The corruption benefits the institution while undermining it. Reforms therefore should be directed toward finding alternatives for the functions the corruption serves. Also, institutional corruption does not require that its perpetrators have corrupt motives, and it is not limited to political institutions. This review examines four leading theories and discusses criticisms of their approach. A tripartite framework for analyzing the elements of institutional corruption is proposed. Although the theories are useful for distinguishing institutional corruption from the more familiar forms of individual corruption, they could be enriched by giving greater attention to the work on individual corruption in its structural forms in developing societies.