“The Quest for Good Governance” – Lessons Learned from 15 Years of Anti-corruption

In February and March, Alina Mungiu-Pippidi presented her latest book “The Quest for Good Governance: How Societies Develop Control of Corruption” on several occasions. The book, which is built on years of research and was funded in part by the EU FP7 ANTICORRP project, presents a comprehensive theory on the control of corruption and an evaluation of the international community’s efforts to curb corruption globally. It was published in August 2015 by Cambridge University Press.

Mungiu-Pippidi presented the book at a seminar at University College London (UCL), a member of the ANTICORRP consortium.  Here she discussed her ideas with faculty and students alike. While in London, she also gave a talk at the Legatum Institute, where she highlighted that corruption concerns everybody as it prevents a global, free market and it discriminates a large mass of people. In her talks Mungiu-Pippidi explained her approach to the question of how to control corruption. She looks at the question through a historical lens, by trying to understand how countries managed to break the vicious cycle of patrimonialism to reach a governance norm of ethical universalism. In doing so she considers historical and contemporary achievers to understand how these proc
esses worked in those contexts. Mungiu-Pippidi highlights that many lessons are to be learned from countries that managed to establish a governance order based on ethical universalism.

Back in Berlin, the Hertie School of Governance held a launch event for the book that brought up many questions by panelists and guests alike. Gunnar Folke Schuppert (Berlin Social Science Centre (WZB)) asked about the relationship between the formal and informal institutions in countries on the path to good governance. He wondered: how do these informal institutions, the rules of the game, change when we try and tackle corruption? Mungiu-Pippidi explained that, naturally, informal institutions will always exist, which is why her approach looks at governance regimes, rather than just political regimes. These are much harder to change and take a more comprehensive approach. Janine Wedel (George Mason University) highlighted that to her the strength of the book is that it looks not only at institutions and their reform, but also at how corruption operates in a specific environment and how we need contextual choices for anticorruption. She stressed Mungiu-Pippidi’s argument that corruption is not a deviation from a norm, but in itself defines a governance system with its formal and informal rules. In some ways “The Quest for Good Governance” even caused some frustrations, as Finn Heinrich, Research Director at Transparency International, pointed out:

“Reading the b9781107534575ook was really a roller-coaster. I’ve been with TI [Transparency International] for 7/8 years now and some of key frustrations where linked to the question of why countries are not showing significant progress. We need to have some success cases. The positive side of the roller-coaster was that reading your book I understood: it’s an equilibrium – it’s not about incremental progress, but much more deep seated. It’s about really fundamental changes and revolutions. That got me excited. The downslide of the roller-coaster was to realize that this is easy to implement. You can’t just come up with new institutions. Anti-corruption is about domestic political forces and long term change. I ended up also being a bit frustrated about the lack of easy fixes, yet, it made a lot of sense to me I really encourage you to read the book. It touches upon all the key issues of corruption: It looks at measurement, theory, at policy; it uses quantitative methods, but also process tracing tools. It’s really a tour de force on various things and, while you might not agree with all of its conclusions, it really is a textbook even though it’s not a textbook on corruption.”

Following her talks in Europe, Alina-Mungiu-Pippidi travelled to the United States where she was invited to present her research at Columbia University in New York City and at the Kennedy School of Governance at Harvard University. She also travelled to Washington D.C., where she held a workshop at the World Bank together with Daniel Kaufmann and gave another presentation at the Woodrow Wilson International Center.

If you did not have a chance to join Alina Mungiu-Pippidi at one of her presentations, consider ordering The Quest for Good Governance:  How Societies Build Control of Corruption, recently published by Cambridge University Press here.

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