Corruption and the Modernisation of the State: Ideas, Discourses and Practices in the Pre-Modern Era and Beyond (1600–1930)
Since the „coronation of the citizen“ (Rosanvallon 1992) via suffrage, the conquest of individual rights, and social autonomy, corrupted practices have been regarded as a remnant of a period of feudal privilege and arbitrary social relationships. Nevertheless, despite the official proclamations and the optimistic belief in the principle of the separation of powers, the advent of the parliamentarian institutions not only did not put an end to deceits, abuses, or misconduct, but entailed and encouraged new forms of clientelism and bribery (Engels 2010). Far from wanting to fall into a pessimistic, anthropological view of human nature, challenging the theory of modernization allows us to reflect on political modernity from a broader – and somehow less simplistic – historical perspective.
As the notion of corruption can be traced to the late-medieval period (Buchan and Hill 2014; Torra-Prat 2021), posing questions about how we should frame corruption within the processes of modernization allows social scientists to revisit chronology, reconsider interpretations, and seek new definitions. In this sense, this workshop considers corruption to be a long-term object rather than a moral category that arose in 1789 to legitimise or castigate previous, foreign, or current societies. One can find in the past models of both prevarication, nepotism, or concussion and efforts to curb corruption and control abuses of power (together with an awareness of the common good) in colonial communities and societies outside the liberal-capitalist framework. In order to stress the continuities, ruptures, and turns regarding political corruption during the premodern era and beyond, this workshop intends to reflect on the articulation between State-building process and the discourses and practices of both corruption and anticorruption by taking into account how political, economic, and social agents dealt with the following three axes: