Need or Greed? Conditions for Collective Action against Corruption

This article calls into question one of the implicit assumptions linking democratic accountability to reduced corruption, namely, that citizens will expose institutions rife with venality and mobilize for better government. Instead, mobilization may be contingent on the type of corruption. The study develops a distinction between need and greed corruption and suggest that citizens are more likely to engage in the fight against corruption when corruption is needed to gain access to “fair” treatment (need corruption) as opposed to special illicit advantages (greed corruption). Using data from the Global Corruption Barometer 2013, the study suggest that need corruption mobilizes citizens, in particular if they perceive that fellow citizens will also engage, while greed corruption leads to secrecy, demobilization, and a propensity to “free ride” on other citizens’ anticorruption efforts. The study thereby contributes to a better understanding of fundamental conditions for collective action against corruption and explaining why greed corruption persists in societies with well-established institutions for accountability.

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