Corruption and the Concept of Culture: Evidence from the Pacific Islands

Peter Larmour

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Ideas about ‘culture’ have often been used to explain, or excuse, acts of corruption. Gift giving, it is sometimes said, is ‘part of our culture’. Outsiders should not confuse it with bribery or corruption. Such a relativistic approach has been strongly criticized by academic writers on corruption, such as Sayed Alatas in his classic Sociology of Corruption, and by activists, such as Transparency International. Alatas saw cultural relativism as another kind of Western naivete and condescension towards non-Western societies. The West, he argued, imagined them to be incapable of telling right from wrong. Alatas provided copious evidence of concern about abuse of public office in different periods (ancient Rome) and cultural traditions (Muslim and Chinese). Just because leaders violated local norms, he argued, did not mean those norms did not exist.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationCorruption: expanding the focus
    Editors Manuhuia Barcham, Barry Hindess and Peter Larmour
    Place of PublicationCanberra
    PublisherANU ePress
    ISBN (Print)9781921862816
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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