Accepted paper:

Cultural repertoires in a comparative perspective: a cognitive approach to corruption


Drazen Cepic (New Europe College)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores a possibility of comparative approach in the anthropology of corruption, which is done with help of new cultural sociology and cognitive linguistics.

Paper long abstract:

The cultural embeddedness of corruption has long been established in the anthropological literature. The notions of conflicting moralities and moral economy of corruption have all sought explanation of this phenomenon in parallel sets of values which, contrary to formal institutions, provided justification for the given behavior. At the same time, however, the cultural explanation has often been treated with distrust due to the possibilities of over-simplification and unjustified generalization. In this paper I seek to show that this very same distrust represents a serious obstacle to a comparative study of corruption. Instead of examining variations between different geographical contexts, the scholarship on corruption nowadays contains only fragmented insight in its cultural variability. In order to address this issue I propose a comparative cultural analysis, striving to analyze national cultural differences, while, as Michele Lamont noticed, avoiding the traditional essentialist pitfalls of culturalism. As a way to examine competing orders of worth contained in national cultural repertoaires, I present a new analytical framework grounded in cognitivist approach to culture and language (prototype theory, idealized cognitive models). I aim to show that concepts developed in cognitive linguistics can be of great help in solving terminological confusion plaguing the anthropology of corruption. Finally, I will argue that a more formal approach represents a necessary step in achieving comparative perspective. Even though my paper provides primarily a theoretical contribution, it is grounded in the field research in Croatia and Austria which I conducted for my doctoral research on friendship and social inequalities.

panel P009
The intimacy of corruption as a conundrum of governance: secrecy vs inflated rhetoric