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2023 Critical Approaches to Corruption and Transparency

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On November 19-20, 2023, the Corruption in the Global South Research Consortium, in collaboration with the Sociology Department at the New School for Social Research, will hold a two-day symposium in New York City dedicated to the study of corruption and anti-corruption in the era of neoliberalism and its historical antecedents. The goal of this symposium is to explore the different ways that corruption and anti-corruption have emerged from, and contributed to, the late capitalist world order.

In a quote posted to the White House website (2021), President Joe Biden states that “corruption threatens United States national security, economic equity, global anti-poverty and development efforts, and democracy itself.” Narrowly defined as “abuse of power for private gain” (TI 2022) but imbued with broader connotations of systematic social decay (Pierce 2016), corruption has emerged in the post-Cold War era as a signifier of a whole array of grievances associated with economic underdevelopment. Reflecting this growing preoccupation with corruption, the international community formed a sprawling ‘anti-corruption industry’ consisting of numerous international conventions, national and local reform packages, and funding mechanisms for aspiring reformers. While global anti-corruptionism has helped put a spotlight on corruption, it has also served to reproduce and justify inequalities in the capitalist world-system by equating corruption with democratic deficit and by echoing colonial discourses of “backwardness” and dependency. Fighting corruption has become a moral imperative, characterized by a strong sense of urgency (Kaufmann 2009) that justifies punitiveness against transgressors, legitimizes lavish spending, and discourages critical examination of neoliberal solutions. With an array of social actors, ranging from populist politicians to grassroots movements, judges and corporations, claiming ownership of anti-corruption to advance their own agendas, this emergent industry has, in many ways, worsened the social problems it purports to ameliorate.​


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