Definitions of corruption are provided. The cultural constructions of corruption are introduced and major theoretical approaches are outlined including elite theory; the role of ‘modernisation’; market theory; sociological theories; and cultural theories. Elite theory can penetrate issues including legitimacy, patronage and clientage. Modernisation theory can be illuminated with reference to Britain and also developing countries. Market theory is important in respect of public corruption particularly where free markets and bureaucratic markets meet. Sociological theory reveals the importance for upward social mobility and behaviours such as conspicuous consumption motivate the potentially corrupt. Cultural theory is important for understanding different attitudes towards gifts and hospitality demonstrating the ambivalence of meaning that can be attached to corruption. Business culture and public culture can often be at odds and result in corrupt transactions.
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