Bureaucracy and the Different Cures

Topics: Bureaucracy, Public administration, Max Weber Pages: 19 (6275 words) Published: March 12, 2013


QOG THE QUALITY OF GOVERNMENT INSTITUTE Department of Political Science University of Gothenburg Box 711, SE 405 30 GÖTEBORG February 2012 ISSN 1653-8919 © 2012 by Carl Dahlström. All rights reserved.

Bureaucracy and the different cures for grand and petty corruption Carl Dahlström QoG Working Paper Series 2011:20 February 2012 ISSN 1653-8919

Carl Dahlström, Ph.D. The Quality of Government Institute Department of Political Science University of Gothenburg carl.dahlstrom@pol.gu.se


A well-structured and efficient public administration is a fundamental attribute of civilized society and essential for the state building process, which also means that it influences prosperity over the centuries (Fukuyama 2011; Mann 1986, 1993; Tilly 1985). An “impartial” (Rothstein and Teorell 2008) or “impersonal” (North, Wallis and Weingast 2009) treatment of citizens by the public administration is a basic quality in well-functioning states, and corruption being the opposite of impartiality, the role of public administration is important to understand – for its own sake, but also because the flaws of the administration are likely to spread to the society at large, with crippling long-term effects.1 Both “public administration” and “corruption” are vague concepts. This paper will therefore discuss only some elements of both concepts. I use the term “public administration” when referring generally to different ways of organizing the public sector in a nation state. When discussing the effect of the public administration on corruption, most scholars start from the way the ideal typical bureaucracy was described by Max Weber in the beginning of the 20th century (Weber 1978, chapter 11; concerning Weberian bureaucracy and corruption see for example Rauch and Evans 2000). When I use the term bureaucracy in this paper I therefore use this word in its Weberian sense. However, even if the analysis is limited to the Weberian bureaucracy it is still inclusive. The Weberian ideal type incorporates different features, such as the principle of office hierarchy; the specialization of tasks and the bureau organization; the terms for recruitment and employment in office holding (Weber 1978: 956-958). Instead of discussing all parts of a Weberian bureaucracy, this paper will concentrate on a few suggestions stemming from what might be called human-relations

1 The author would like to thank Michelle D’Arcy, Victor Lapuente, Johannes Lindvall, Veronica Norell, Anna Persson, Bo Rothstein and Anders Sundell for comments on earlier versions of this paper.


in a Weberian bureaucracy. Weber put a lot of emphasis on the position of the official within a bureaucracy. He described a basic set of ideas of how human relations should be organized in a “modern bureaucracy”, including terms for recruitment, salaries and promotion (Weber 1978: 956959). Scholars have made several proposals on how to fight corruption, based on Weberian ideas. It has for example been suggested that a meritocratically recruited administration hampers corruption (Dahlström, Lapuente and Teorell 2011); that an administration with a strong esprit-de-corps makes it harder for corrupt practices to occur (Rauch and Evans 2000); and that full time employment and relatively high salaries for public employees diminish the incentives for corruption among bureaucrats (Besley and McLaren 1993). In order to understand how the administration affects corruption, we should probably also make a distinction between different levels of corruption. This paper follows a strand in the literature that makes a difference between grand and petty corruption. I refer to grand corruption as misuse of public office on the higher levels within the state (Rose-Ackerman 1999: 27). The most extreme examples are cases of “state capture”, which refers to situations where top...
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