Institutt for sammenliknende politikk


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Bo Rothstein: Controlling Corruption - The Social Contract Approach

Bo Rothstein, professor at the University of Gothenburg, gave a short lecture on Controlling Corruption: The Social Contract Approach. The presentation builds on Rothstein's new book by the same name.

Red backdrop with white letters that read: "Core Lecture Series"


This book presents a radically new approach to how societies can get corruption under control. Since the late 1990s, the detrimental effects of corruption on human wellbeing have become well established in research. This has resulted in a stark increase in anti-corruption programs launched by international and national development organizations. Despite these efforts, evaluations of the effects of these anti-corruption programs have been disappointing. As it can be measured, it is difficult to find substantial effects from such anti-corruption programs. The argument in this book is that this huge policy failure can be explained by three factors. Firstly, that the corruption problem has been poorly conceptualized since what should count as the opposite to corruption—the quality of government—has been left out. Secondly, that the problem has been located in the wrong social spaces. It is neither a cultural nor a legal problem. Instead, it is for the most part located in what organization theory defines as the “standard operating procedures” in social organizations. Thirdly, that the general theory that has dominated anti-corruption efforts—the principal-agent theory—is based on serious misspecification of the basic nature of the problem. The book presents a reconceptualization of corruption and a new theory—drawing on the tradition of the social contract—to explain it and motivate policies of how to get corruption under control. Several empirical cases serve to underpin this new theory ranging from the historical organization of religious practices to specific social policies, universal education, gender equality, and auditing.

Bo Rothstein holds the August Röhss Chair in Political Science at University of Gothenburg. His research touches on many different areas, including the quality of political institutions, welfare policy, social trust, corruption, poverty reduction, labor market policy and interest groups.


The CORE Lecture Series is organised by the CORE research group (Citizens, Opinion, Representation, and Elections) at the Department of Comparative Politics. Leading international scholars are invited to present their ongoing research on a broad range of topical issues for the research group.

The seminars are funded by the SAMEVAL grant awarded by the Norwegian Research Council.