"But that's not corruption": an interpretive approach to corruption in business-government relations in Indonesia
AffiliationManagement and Marketing
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusThis item is embargoed and will be available on 2021-03-28. This item is currently available to University of Melbourne staff and students only, login required.
© 2016 Dr. Kanti Pertiwi
Mainstream corruption research suggests that corruption is universally harmful or dysfunctional and is bad for development and democracy. It also assumes that people who engage in corruption are rational actors seeking to maximise gain and are detached from their social context. However, this view has been challenged by a group of scholars who argue that in order to better understand how corruption comes about, we need to study what it means in context. Observations of practices commonly labelled as corruption suggest there are locally situated understandings of corruption that diverge from its portrayal in the media and by the global anti-corruption movement. This research investigates the different meanings of corruption constructed by actors situated in a particular context – in this case, Indonesia, using insights from the anthropological literature and cultural studies. These meanings are empirically explored through an analysis of newspaper articles and interviews with Indonesians, including members of government, business and anti-corruption organisations. Findings show that there are multiple meanings of corruption inferred from the articles and these meanings are bound up with notions of ‘democracy’ and ‘national identity’, reflecting changes in the political and economic context in which these meanings are produced. Similarly, meanings assigned to corruption by interviewees are also influenced by the context in which the interviewees are situated, such as their socio-economic interests and institutional positions. In analysing the different meanings, I found different conceptualisations of ethics and morality in relation to practices associated with corruption. Moreover, in applying the theory of care ethics, I argue that people who engage in these practices may subscribe to a different moral orientation, one that puts emphasis on caring for others and preserving relationships, as opposed to applying abstract universal codes of ethics. This is not to say that ethics is relative, but to assert that the understanding of ethics cannot be separated from the context within which it arises, and that it moves from generalising principles to a “focus on local meaning and sensemaking practices that constitute ethics” (Clegg, Kornberger et al. 2007 p.119). The study contributes to corruption research by applying an ‘interpretive’ perspective, and by bringing in the views of people whose voices are rarely heard in empirical studies. At the same time, it contributes to corruption research in developing countries. Finally, there are some practical implications for anti-corruption campaigning, as well as for the larger policy community.
Keywordscorruption; business-government relations; business ethics; Indonesia
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