Religion and attitudes towards corruption in India: a collective action problem?

This paper argues that religion influences the ways that people think and speak about corruption, typically leading to condemnation. However, it is also argued that, in a systemically corrupt country, such condemnation is unlikely to influence actual corrupt behaviour. Based on fieldwork in India, the paper finds that existing anti-corruption policies based on a principal-agent understanding of corruption, even if they incorporate religious organisations and leaders, are unlikely to work, partly because people consider “religion” to be a discredited entity. Instead, the paper argues that if corruption were to be seen as a collective action problem, anti-corruption practice would need significant rethinking. Despite its current lack of influence, revised policies and practices may see a role for religion.

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