Cultures of Corruption


Political and social leaders accuse each other of it, and are accused by a media that itself is then condemned for it. It is tweeted, re-tweeted, articles are written, journals published, and blogs devoted to it – but what is “Corruption”? And how has the mention of it become so pervasive, while there seems to be no set definition or even direction? Has anyone ever asked you for a favor? Have you ever asked for one? How did you thank them for the favor – and when? Before or after they have done what you asked, helped you with an assignment, let you borrow notes, or given you a recommendation for a job? Did you, or they, ask for something in return? Are these simple “favors” or quid pro quos? Were you bartering or bargaining for a service or good? When does a “favor” become “corruption”? There are governments accused of being cleptocracies – governments of organized thieves composed of individuals whose only goal is to legally take as much money and resources from others as possible in order to enrich themselves. This kind of corruption seems easy to define. But what about a payment to a border guard to let you pass? You have the legal right to pass, but a small gift, a token of your appreciation for the job the guard is doing, is expected. And while it might not be legally required, if you don’t tip, then the next time you are going through that crossing it might take a little longer, or your packages receive a little more scrutiny, or maybe the border just isn’t open today – at least not for you. This course will examine values, systems, and institutions across the globe – and down the street.