The Invisible and the Immeasurable: Towards Alternative Indicators of Corruption

The Invisible and the Immeasurable: Towards Alternative Indicators of Corruption

Convenors: Alena Ledeneva and Nicolas Sauger

The aim of the colloquium is to explore how to move beyond the existing paradigms of measuring corruption. One unintended consequence of the ‘informalisation’ of global economy (Sassen) is that the existing indicators of performance and change are becoming less effective. In the studies of corruption, the contemporary global corruption paradigm (GCP) with its governance indicators and multiple indices seems to have exhausted its measurement and policy potential. On the one hand, it has been dubbed as a ‘magnificent policy failure’ (Rothstein) due to its incapacity to achieve its proclaimed goal –to reduce corruption all over the world. On the other hand, the present paradigm has turned unequipped to handle the ‘globalisation’ of corruption practices, as majority of indices are tied to the countries, and to differentiate between cultural contexts, assuming that corruption would be the same everywhere. The cross-cutting issue in many disciplines is: how to factor culture dynamics into risk analysis in general, and how to measure the impact of informality in particular. The key empirical puzzle is whether it is possible to measure the immeasurable without formalising it. The workshop will focus on the following questions :

  • Comparing the incomparable: How to create culture sensitive next generation indicators that would be compatible with existing transnational surveys? Can Drazen Prelec’s ‘truth serum’ methodology be applied to the corruption perception data?
  • Corruption and political trust: Which invisible practices we need to know about to assess the quality of government and governance comparatively? Which are the questions that could/should be included in general social or political surveys? What are the ways to assess the impact of the perception of corruption on political behaviors and attitudes?
  • Practical norms: For the contexts of systemic corruption, one should search for the bottom-up, user-friendly indicators for informal practices, with focus on strength rather than frequency of relationships and practical norms rather than perceptions. How does media, new media and social media pin down practical norms?  How to visualise and articulate the invisibility of informal practices?
  • Ambivalence of corruption: Identifying societies’ practical norms and open secrets, such as implicit acceptance of corrupt practices and their functionality, presents a challenge. Corruption gets lost between insiders’ and outsiders’ miscommunication. How to construct indicators that would reflect cultural differences and ambivalent attitudes towards corruption? How to tackle the issue of ambivalence of principal and agent roles, of public and private interests, of double standards and the Orwell’s doublethink in contexts with systemic corruption. Is it possible to assess the spread of double standards in societies?
  • Norm reversal: Within the existing measurements, how to distinguish indicators for the countries with systemic corruption – where corruption is a practical norm – from indicators for the countries where corruption is a deviation? Can a national-based comparison be replaced? What are the alternatives?

Programme_Paris_Final