Legitimation and normalization of corruption in the public administration in Turkey: cultural and institutional perspectives

This contribution constitutes one of the early research efforts taken adopting ethnographic perspectives and methodologies in conducting research on corruption in Turkey. As such, it aims to provide ethnographic evidence about the factors contributing to the ‘banality’/’normality’ of corruption in politics and administration in the country.  In other words, information and insight with regard to identifying perspectives and processes involved in attempts toward ‘excusing’, if not ‘legitimizing’, corrupt behaviours will be identified and analysed. The contribution will also deal with the question of whether and to what extent social and cultural norms prevalent in the society impact the continuation of corruption in Turkey. It is a timely and relevant topic, especially given the entrenched nature and enduring characteristics of corruption in the country.

Ethnographic evidence is gleaned from the interviews which illustrates the social-cultural survivals and local legitimizations of corruption in the country. Three problematic areas emerge in which local perceptions and perspectives regarding the administrative-political dynamics seem to be not conducive for the designing and implementation of conventional anti-corruption policies in the country. These are, first, the existence of various types of common practices in the country that are not seen as corrupt while they can be considered as corrupt (at least potentially). Secondly, the nature and extent of ‘common excuses’ or ‘popular legitimizations’ of corrupt tendencies and behaviours in politics and administration. Thirdly, the opinions and comments of the study participants vis-à-vis the role of social and cultural norms in the continuation of corruption in the country.

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