Narratives of evil: Localized understandings of corruption

Corruption is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that has different forms in different contexts (Richter, Burke 2007). Similarly to other grand concepts like ‘society’, ‘morality’, ‘human relationships’, corruption is also abstract, diffuse and lacking in clear delineation – which makes it a good target for metaphorical reasoning (Kovecses 2000, p.23-26). This research explores the metaphorical dimensions of corruption vocabulary arguing that it is built on a paradox. CACA and HACA research has indicated two apparently contradictory facts. The first one is that there is an international vocabulary associated with corruption that reveals a general, even though superficial, understanding of this phenomenon (“a person is corrupt”, “that is a corrupt country”). The second fact is that there are important local peculiarities in the usage of even the most common corruption related terms (like nepotism, familism, clientelism, cartels). This report is built around this paradox, exploring the tensions between the transnational symbolism of corruption and its local meanings by looking at the use of metaphors in the national press from seven different countries (Italy, France, Hungary, Latvia, Romania, Slovakia and UK).

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