This article examines how the imperative to undo institutionalized racism has played out in the South African bureaucracy, and specifically how it works against many Weberian ideals. von Holdt touches on how many state leaders have attempted to create a modern bureaucracy, yet their first priority has actually been to eliminate racist undertones present in the system. Racism permeated every aspect of society during apartheid, meaning that even things like recruitment based on skill and respect of authority have complex racial pasts that the ANC is trying to reshape, resulting in a bureaucracy that is shaped by nationalism rather than the Weberian model.
In this article, Grindle discusses how the structure of the sexenio and the prevalence patronage have come to shape the Mexican bureaucracy. She details the many ways that the patron-client system works, revealing how important it is for bureaucrats to create strong social networks in order to advance their careers. Additionally, she focuses on how this system effects bureaucracy and emphasizes that there are both pros (dedication of bureaucrats, efficiency, trust) and cons (lack of merit recruitment, high turnover rates, inexperienced bureaucrats).
Two of the readings this week focus specifically on whether incremental or radical change is more effective for expelling corruption. On one hand, Rothstein argues for the “big bang” procedure of eliminating corruption. According to him, most corruption stems from people’s perceptions of others’ levels of corruption. In other words, he argues that if everyone believes everyone else is corrupt, they will also lean into corrupt tendencies, even if they believe it is morally wrong. As a result, he argues that slow incremental changes will be ineffective in changing this workplace culture because they will not adequately prove that corruption has been reformed for everyone, and people may still operate under the assumption that everyone is still crooked. On the other hand, Bersch argues that slow incremental changes are the only way to create lasting change. According to her, these small adjustments allow for a greater learning curve, and therefore an increased ability to develop comprehensive changes. Additionally, small changes allow bureaucrats to maintain autonomy and integrate new practices into already existing systems. Her argument is based on the idea that small incremental changes will stem from people with the greatest understanding of their specific sphere, rather than from one figure who tries force similar reforms onto dissimilar issues. I’m inclined to agree more with Bersch’s analysis of incremental changes. To me, Rothstein’s article seems to be a slight oversimplification of the multifaceted issue of corruption. I do believe that workplace culture is extremely important in curbing corruption and should be considered in reform. However, if we are talking about creating more lasting changes, I agree with Bersch that integrating reforms into existing and accepted institutions will make the most sense.
Fisman and Miguel decided to use the distribution of parking tickets to diplomats in New York as a lens to study how cultural norms and practices influence the prevalence of corruption. They find that diplomats from countries with higher rates of corruption were more likely to accumulate unpaid parking violations, revealing that cultural norms do impact the persistence of corruption. Additionally, they find that once law enforcement stopped allowing diplomats to avoid paying for tickets, the rates of corruption went down, indicating that law enforcement, if used properly, can help curb corruption.
I thought this was a really interesting way of studying corruption. Because of the complex nature of corruption, most other literature uses much more subjective indicators to measure it. However, this work was based primarily in data, giving the experiment relatively high levels of internal validity and providing empirical evidence for their claims. For this reason, this was probably my favorite reading from this week.
In the article, “Merit, Tenure, and Bureaucratic Behavior: Evidence From a Conjoint Experiment in the Dominican Republic,” Schuster and Oliveros find that merit exams to enter the civil service help reduce corruption and increase work motivation, while tenure security makes bureaucrats less likely to participate in electoral spheres. In order to determine this, they used a conjoint experiment model which helped them asses how bureaucrats reacted and interacted with topics like corruption, political services, and work motivation. This has great implications for many developing countries as it outlines concrete actions that can be taken to enhance state capacity.
Hi! I’m Eliza!