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The corruption literature has broken important ground for not only theoretical understandings of why corruption occurs and who it involves, but also for the development of anti-corruption policies and efforts across the globe.In this special issue, however, we argue that what tends to be neglected is an investigation into, and thus understanding of, the underlying causes and mechanisms of the phenomenon.
We believe that a turn to theory can contribute to this already emerging body of literature by both providing a more powerful and effective critique, as well as contributing to the development of alternative conceptualisations of corruption and ways to tackle it.
Thirdly, theoretical explorations in corruption research have been characterised by an application of theories theorizations of corruption.
In organization studies, research has sought to describe and understand the organizational settings in which corruption takes place – whether by one or several members within an organization, by individuals on behalf of organizations, or by entire organizations in cases where corruption operates as an institutionalized practice (Pinto et al., 2008).
Organizational scholars have emphasized that corruption should not only be regarded as a , i.e.
This is not to say that there has not been a body of critical voices who in various ways have sought to problematize the mobilization of this ‘war’ as well as the ‘enemy’ that has been targeted, i.e.
the very phenomenon of corruption, and the way it is ‘fought’ (e.g.Overall, the literature on corruption highlights the various ways in which the abuse of power is performed: for instance, the government official accepting a bribe or a kickback for his services (Rodriguez et al., 2005), or less overt exchanges such as gifts, favours, promises, symbolically sealed by surreptitious handshakes, and often embedded in, or consolidating, social networks (Bourdieu, 1977; Noonan, 1984; Granovetter, 2007).Stretching the notion of abuse of power even further, corruption may also involve practices such as violence, intimidation, harassment or bullying (Hearn and Parkin, 2001), thus highlighting the ‘dark side’ of organizational behaviour more broadly (Griffin and O’Leary, 2004).Secondly, we claim it is a challenge for critical studies of corruption to sufficiently address the assumptions underlying the dominant theories of corruption.Most studies that attempt to problematize corruption and anti-corruption practices take their point of departure in empirical data.Admittedly, the central theme of this special issue – ‘a turn to theory’ – might seem naïve: What is critique, or research for that matter, without theory? First, corruption is an emotionally and ideologically vested concept, and corruption research is often characterized and/or motivated by normative descriptions and analyses of corruption.Such research tends to empirically single out corrupt practices as opposed to legitimate or non-corrupt but still illegal practices.The increased attention to corruption and anti-corruption has also led to a ‘corruption boom’ (Torsello, 2013: 313) in which corruption has been approached and theorized in various ways.Corruption is discussed in fields as diverse as economics, political science, anthropology, sociology, history, organization studies, international business, business ethics, psychology, and philosophy.Thus, we called for papers offering a critical study of corruption, and, further, we invited contributions that turn to theory to problematize and critique corruption.Our intention has been to go beyond descriptions of alleged corrupt behaviour or normative discussions of legitimacy of particular activities, through engagement in .