‘Finding God’ or ‘Moral Disengagement’ in the Fight Against Corruption in Developing Countries? Evidence from India and Nigeria

There are growing calls for religion to be used in the fight against corruption based on theassumption that religious people are more concerned with ethics than the non-religious,despite the fact that many of the most corrupt countries in the world also rank highly in termsof religiosity. This paper looks at the evidence in the current literature for a causalrelationship between religion and corruption and questions the relevance of the methodologies being used in order to build up this evidence base. This section shows that the new ‘myth’ about the relationship between religion and corruption is based on assumptions not borne outthrough the evidence. The paper presents findings from field research in India and Nigeria that explores how individual attitudes towards corruption may (or may not) be shaped by religion. The research shows that religion may have some impact on attitudes towardscorruption, but it has very little likely impact on actual corrupt behaviour. This is because –despite universal condemnation of corruption – it is seen by respondents as being so systemicthat being uncorrupt often makes little sense. By using a process that Bandura (2002) calls ‘selective moral disengagement’, respondents were able to justify their own attitudes and behaviour vis-a-vis corruption, pointing towards corruption being a classic collective actionproblem, rather than a problem of personal values or ethics.

Tags: , ,