Where does informality stop and corruption begin? Informal governance and the public/private crossover in Mexico, Russia and Tanzania

Despite significant investment and anti-corruption capacity building in the past decades, "most systematically corrupt countries are considered to be just as corrupt now as they were before the anti-corruption interventions"(1). Statements like this are indicative of the frustration shared by practitioners and scholars alike at the apparent lack of success in controlling corruption worldwide and point to the need to rethink our understanding of the factors that fuel corruption and make it so hard to abate. 

In this article we challenge the prevalent anti-corruption approaches in three ways.

  1. First, rather than discussing the failures of anticorruption reforms and the normative anticorruption rhetoric of the leadership in Mexico, Russia and Tanzania, we explore patterns of informal governance that work effectively, allowing the authorities to stay in power and citizens to access services and resources.
  2. Second, we link these practices to the impossibility of a clear public/private divide and identify those practical norms that enable its seamless crossover in these countries.
  3. Third, we find that the resilience of corrupt behaviours is associated with the fact that the informal governance norms that we identify across the three cases are permeated with ambivalent meanings and implications.

This approach is expected to generate insights relevant to the development of a new generation of more effective anti-corruption measures for countries that suffer from high levels of corruption.

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Slavonic and East European Review