The phenomenon of corruption is often described as a "cancer", "virus", or an "evil" that is haunting contemporary private and public organizations. Corruption, it is claimed, has to be combated using a ‘"wide range of strategies, networked in an integrated fashion over a long period of time" (Ajayi, 2005). Some call this a global war on corruption.
Despite the massive impact that corrupt practices and the various measures taken to mitigate or eradicate it have on governments, organizations and their management, only scarce efforts have taken a critical, unmasking perspective on corruption and anti-corruption. Similarly, although scholars, documentarists, and essayists have sought to demonstrate and untangle the 'dark sides' of organizations and the seemingly omnipresent phenomena surrounding them (e.g., global warming) corruption is often taken for granted as a global "problem" and "threat". One may thus ask, is the evil of corruption (or the good of anti-corruption) beyond debate? Can't corruption be good (a question raised by Noonan, 2004)?
Hence, the overarching aims of this sub-theme are embedded in the dual meaning of the title "unmasking corruption". First, to revisit and problematize the phenomenon of corruption and its impact on organizations and contemporary society. Second, to critically assess the "unmasking" business, that is, the industry and practices of contemporary anti-corruption.
Exploring the potential of the Colloquium theme, we suggest that there are three crucial ways of unmasking corruption. One is by bridging continents. Ledeneva (1998, 2006), for example, discusses the necessity and importance of blat, or informal/illegal exchange, in the Soviet Union (the second, Other, world). Graham Hancock (1989) shows how (white) middlemen conspicuously live off the aid resources in third world countries, while distributing unnecessary resources to the locals – thereby problematizing the image of the Other as inherently corrupt.
While cross-national and indeed cross-civilizational culture differences are covered by bridging continents, the idea of bridging cultures is the inclusion of various marginal voices. Anti-corruption is often implemented from above, where the voices of those in lower tiers who must pay the bribes are often neglected. Moreover, accusations of corruption are often directed towards a particular Other, be it another professional group, another industry, a competing company, or indeed the private in the eyes of the public and vice versa.
By bridging worldviews, we can unmask dominant anti-corruption measures, embedded in "economic" principal-agent understandings of corruption, which suggests governance, surveillance, enforcement, and reporting as key ingredients in the fight against corruption. We can construct new understandings of corruption with a base in sociology, history, anthropology, organization theory, philosophy, political science, psychoanalysis, or indeed resource dependence theory, natural sciences, and ecology.
We invite papers addressing this "unmasking" of corruption or anti-corruption from different perspectives. We particularly invite papers that engage with one of the three types of bridging suggested above, but papers that go beyond that scope are certainly invited:
Participants of this sub-theme are encouraged to submit their papers to the special issue "Corruption, Anti-Corruption, Critique" of ephemera – theory & politics in organization (ephemeraweb.org), edited by members of the convening group.