How Can Anthropology Bring a New Perspective to Corruption Research?

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[We’re pleased to welcome Bertrand Venard of Audencia Nantes School of Management and Wharton School of theJMI_72ppiRGB_powerpoint University of Pennsylvania. Professor Venard recently published an article with Davide Torsello of Central European University Business School and University of Bergamo, in the Journal of Management Inquiry entitled “The Anthropology of Corruption.”]

  • What inspired you to be interested in this topic?

I was inspired by the complete lack of consideration of the anthropology field in management literature that studies corruption. I thought an anthropological view of corruption could offer a stimulating perspective for organizational scholars.

  • Were there findings that were surprising to you?

Anthropologists have been doing research about corruption for decades. Their research could add value to the organizational field, particularly on the matter of corruption and general wrongdoings in organizations. In their research, anthropologists stress the importance of using a definition of social actors, rather than a universal definition. Thus, for anthropologists, corruption is what the locals names “corruption.” Considering the native perspective, anthropologists reject a moralistic view of corruption. Instead, they present the cohesive influence of corruption.

Furthermore, anthropologists see corruption as a process, not a statistical phenomenon. This demand for a historical account of corruption has led academics to use ethnography as a method of inquiry, a method that is known in management but not frequently used to study corruption. Anthropology allows an interesting perspective, using corruption as a single point of entry to the whole culture. Corruption should not be used for itself, but for the understanding it provides about the complete culture.

  • How do you see this study influencing future research and/or practice?

Our research may influence organizational scholars to consider the anthropology field when doing research about corruption. In particular, researchers may use more qualitative methods to study corruption, especially ethnography. By focusing on local, social and cultural aspects of corruption, it may be possible to better understand why corruption is a phenomenon resistant to eradication, and why, for instance, executives from countries where corruption is not an issue engage in wrongdoings when they go to emerging markets.

You can read “The Anthropology of Corruption” for free in Journal of Management Inquiry by clicking here. Want to know about all the latest research like this from Journal of Management Inquiry? Click here to sign up for e-alerts!


Davide TorDavide Torsellosello is an associate professor of socio-cultural anthropology at Central European University Business School, Hungary, and University of Bergamo, Italy. He is a leader of the unit “The ethnographic study of corruption” in the EU FP7 research project ANTICORRP (Anti-corruption Policies Revisited. Global Trends and European Responses to the Challenge of Corruption). Recently, he published The New Environmentalism? Civil Society and Corruption in the Enlarged EU (Ashgate).

Bertrand Venard is a professor of strategy at Audencia Nantes School of Management (France) and visiting Bertrand Venardprofessor, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania (USA). His research interests concern deviance, fraud, and corruption. He has published more than 50 academic articles. He is involved in a working group of the United Nations (Global Compact, PRME, Principles of Responsible Management Education) aiming at reducing corruption through curriculum development.

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