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ACREC Experts Oksana Huss and Oleksandra Koidel held a lecture “Corruption as a Black Box”

On November 27, the Kyiv School of Economics hosted the lecture by the development consultant, the coordinator of the analytical direction of ACREC Oksana Huss, and the postgraduate student at the Berlin School of Transnational Studies at the Free University of Berlin Olexandra Koidel on “Corruption as a Black Box: The Role of Covert Assumptions and Political Motives in Determining Corruption and fighting it “.

During the lecture, students learned about different approaches to explaining the causes of corruption as a phenomenon and plunged into the role of interpretations of corruption in the context of political dominance.

In particular, experts told about the existence of basic paradigms that explain the causes of the existence of corruption in society: from the point of view of morality, rational behavior, system, and culture.

Thus, within the framework of the first paradigm, corruption is seen as a moral error, and its causes lie in a “spoiled personality”. Such a vision of corruption leads to an appropriate vision of ways to overcome this phenomenon – namely, by punishing a particular person. According to Oksana Huss, this approach has significant drawbacks. They are explained by the fact that by analyzing corruption as a phenomenon, we can not be sure whether only the individual influences the structure or the structure itself is capable of influencing the individual.

From this follows a second approach to explaining corruption – one that substantiates the causes of corruption through the prism of rational behavior of actors. This approach is based on the economic logic of socio-political relations and is explained by the theory of the principal and agent. According to the approach, the expert explains, the principal (politicians) appoint agents (executors) in order to engage in support of the population and ensure political stability. However, the problem lies in the fact that the principal is not able to control agents who are always trying to profit – especially with the lack of transparency that causes asymmetry in information.

Thus, according to the approach, corruption can be imagined using the formula of Robert Klytgarte, in which it equals: “monopoly + discretion – accountability.” Hence the opposite of corruption, the conditions for overcoming it are “healthy market + regulation + transparency”. The downside, Ms. Oksana believes, lies in the fact that according to thus approach all anti-corruption activities are concentrated on control. In turn, control as an instrument is not effective in developing countries, since in such states control is complicated by the corruption of the principals themselves.

Within the framework of the third paradigm, corruption is a system. It is this approach, from the standpoint of experts, that is most consistent with Ukrainian realities. According to it, the state usually functions as a business, for which the development of centralization of power and authoritarianism is relevant. But what to do in this situation? – To expand access to the system, – note the lecturers. However, this approach is not ideal because of the so-called “chimeras of democracy” and the hidden forms of authoritarianism.

In its turn, the cultural approach translates corruption into a category of cultural norms of society, which is difficult to eradicate, and therefore it is also problematic to offer concrete anti-corruption actions.

So, is there a single approach to understanding corruption as a phenomenon? – Obviously not. But what prevents corruption from conceptualizing?

According to Oksana Huss, the so-called “empty concept” in discourse plays the greatest role in this, which leads to the understanding of corruption as a negative without a clear justification of its significance, and thus makes it impossible to search for clear actions to combat it.

Finally, the lecturers were reflexive on the topic of the current situation in Ukraine, noting that the current discourse in the state is as follows: “the whole policy is corruption.” Under such circumstances, Ukrainian society is compelled to play a major anticorruption role and to act as a producer of anticorruption strategy.

However, it is unlikely that such a situation is healthy. And does it affect the attitude of society towards most anti-corruption? The experts have an unequivocal answer to this question – yes. In fact, given the negative attitude of society to corruption as a systemic and widespread problem in the state, the same attitude is subconsciously transferred to the field of anti-corruption.

In this context, the key question arises – is anti-corruption a solution to the discourse that has developed in Ukraine? Can we change the destructive approach to understanding corruption in the categories of good and evil to a constructive one – what is the opposite of corruption in its essence?

These and other issues remain open, leading to a lively discussion of the search for possible alternatives and solutions. According to the results of the discussion, the majority of the audience agreed with the need to change the (anti-) corruption discourse in the state and transfer it to a more positive path, building on a high-quality political system, an open government and maintaining integrity.

The lecture was held with the support of the Kyiv School of Economics in partnership with ACREC.