Search Results for corruption
Not until fairly recently has corruption been recognized as a valid topic within the social sciences, perhaps partly because it’s not easily verified. Also, shrewd researchers wishing to avoid repercussions in an imperfect world may know when it’s best to keep quiet.
Corruption most often involves bribery and abuses of legitimate authority.¹ In business and government corruption may take place between as few as two people or among a relatively small number or insiders. Some examples in government would be employing a less qualified person than others or closing a business deal as a result of clandestine social and/or economic connections. In business, examples would be market collusion and all types of fraud involving more than one person.
Extreme conspiracy theorists contend that a so-called ‘culture of fear’ is purposefully orchestrated by inherently deceptive governments in order to legitimize wars and bolster certain markets. Along these lines, some believe that corruption has permeated Western culture to a degree formerly associated with so-called third and second world countries. But again, proof is usually hard to find and, most likely, always will be.
Within psychology and especially theology, the term corruption refers to specific individuals or groups whenever an action is deemed morally degrading by another group claiming moral authority. In some circles of Eastern and Western mystical theology corrupt acts are said to “pollute” the individual soul (or in Buddhism, to attract negative skandhas).
These two ideas of corruption – the social vs. the psychological and theological – may at first seem separate. But on closer inspection, they’re arguably connected. As Jesus puts it in Matthew 7:18, “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a rotten tree cannot produce good fruit.” True, Christ is talking about true and false religious prophets in this passage, but it seems fair to generalize this idea to all aspects of life.
So what does this mean for the average person in our imperfect world? Even the upright schoolteacher or respected academic has probably photocopied material that is under copyright. And many decent folks made cassette tapes of their favorite albums back in the day.
The answer to this question has spawned a lot of debate in philosophy and theology about ethics, and clever thinkers have come up with a range of ideas from “situational ethics” to “necessary evil” to try to grapple with the realities of imperfect beings living in an imperfect world.
Moreover, in sociology and economics were hear arguments about the alleged positive aspects of crime–for instance, crime is said to be good for anti-crime businesses and services (e.g. anti-virus software), as well as for neutral market areas (e.g. the old cassette tape). And even the classical sociologist Emile Durkheim believed that a limited amount of crime was good for society because it helped to define boundaries for acceptable vs. unacceptable behavior, this awareness strengthening society as a whole.² But ultimately, it seems only God can know what’s right and wrong, this also being one of Jesus’ teachings (Matthew 7:1).
¹ For a good list of these potential abuses, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corruption.
² For a good discussion on Durkheim’s view, see http://misssrobinson.wordpress.com/2010/05/07/how-do-functionalists-explain-crime
Corruption - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (plato.stanford.edu/entries/corruption)
Transparency International (transparency.org)
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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a popular novel by Lewis Carol written in 1865. It is often taken as a satire of the British aristocracy. But the story has also been interpreted in psychological and mythological terms.
The usual laws of logic and proportion no longer apply, and Alice encounters several odd characters and situations. One of these is the White Rabbit with a pocket watch. In the so-called “Summer of Love” of 1967, the rock group Jefferson Airplane released a hit single, White Rabbit, likening Alice’s adventures to an LSD trip.
Other famous and not-so-famous writers like Aldous Huxley, Timothy Leary and Terrence Mckenna have variously advocated psychedelic stimulants as doorways to the unknown recesses of the unconscious and transpersonal psyche.
By way of contrast, some contemporary spiritual seekers say that psychoactive drugs represent, at best, beginners’ aids. And most social, scientific and religious groups see illegal drugs as a hindrance to true spiritual achievement and, at worst, as addictive substances potentially dangerous to self, others and to society as a whole.¹
Defenders of drug use often cite the Peyote cults of Mexico, northern Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. These religious groups use psychoactive drugs and some research indicates an absence of harmful effects among Church members if peyote is taken responsibly.²
The cult classic video What the Bleep Do We Know!? adapts Carol’s “down the rabbit hole” metaphor to highlight leading interpretations of observed anomalies in subatomic physics.
¹ The argument is that drug use directly or indirectly involves a person in the world of street gangs, violence and corruption.
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Among believers, Cancer personalities are said to be materialistic and spiritual, gentle yet moody. Like the crab, these folks apparently can have a tough exterior but are inwardly sensitive.
From the moon, Cancer obtains all the traditional values associated with Luna-changeability, dependence on natural forces, openness, and a certain luminosity of mind and spirit.
Astrologers often link cancer with the Egyptian scarab beetle, which in antiquity symbolized immortality because it survived the flooding of the Nile river. The scarab also protects its eggs by rolling them on the ground in a ball of dung until they hatch, symbolizing the fresh start that inevitably emerges from decay and corruption.
Wikipedia lists other mythological associations:
In mythology Cancer is often associated with the Greek myth of the Lernaean Hydra, one of The Twelve Labours of Herakles and the mythical figure of Perseus, from the Greek myth of Medusa. Cancer is also associated with the Greco-Roman goddess Selene/Luna and sometimes the goddesses Artemis/Diana and Hecate/Trivia.¹
Prominent Cancers are the late Lady Diana, Harrison Ford, and Linda Ronstadt.
In astronomy the Crab is a dim constellation located between Gemini and Leo. At its center the cluster, Praesepe, is visible to the naked eye.
The image (at right) is the Crab Nebula. It is not the constellation called Cancer or The Crab (Courtesy NASA).
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In a compelling TNG episode, Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the U.S.S. Enterprise is captured and electronically tortured by a chief Cardassian. Picard finds underneath the tyrant’s powerful exterior a frightened, abused little boy with a massive inferiority complex.
The tyrant gives Picard a choice: If he agrees to say there are five floodlights beaming in his face when actually there are only four, his torture will stop. If he holds to the truth, his torture will continue. Fortunately, Picard is rescued by his crew before caving in and betraying the truth for the sake of comfort.
Toward the end of the episode, however, Picard admits to Counselor Troy that he was about to “say anything” to stop his electronically induced torture. And, perhaps most interesting, Picard adds that, after suffering intense and prolonged abuse, he really began to believe that he saw five lights instead of four.
This is a telling psychosocial comment about how perceptions can change with the oppressive influence of an evil power that’s not in a person’s best interests.
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Traditionally, the term discourse was applied to any kind of serious treatise or homily that was used for educational or pastoral purposes. A good example of the older usage of discourse can be found in Rene Descartes’ Discourse on the Method (1637).¹
But with the rise of postmodernism, the idea of discourse underwent something of a revolution. Instead of representing the “last word” on a given topic, discourses now became socially relative truth claims. And rather than being perceived as originating from some great authority on high, to be received by a passive audience, the new idea of discourse is far more intersubjective. That is, in the grand scheme of things, one truth claim is about as good as another.
The poststructuralist thinker Michel Foucault popularized the idea of discourse as an essentially political utterance. The key for Foucault is that discourse (as relative instead of absolute truth) always occurs within a relational matrix of social power. For Foucault, a given discourse actually creates a specific truth. This truth is relative to the network from which it emerges. In postmodernism, which includes but also extends to thinkers other than Foucault, discourses may be vocal, written or gestural.
The Foucauldian understanding of discourse also includes institutionalized practices (e.g. the school system) or even architectural statements connoting a certain truth claim about a given group or society (e.g. 1 WTC, Burj Khalifa, CN Tower, Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building, Taj Mahal).
In addition, Foucault maintains that different discourses may take similar forms. For instance, political and economic discourses of the 18th and 19th centuries embrace discursive styles reflecting the scientific belief in evolution.
In the 21st century, giving a discourse a scientific look and feel may enhance its social legitimacy, appeal to the masses, and therefore have real effects. This is perhaps most obvious in TV ads, where products are often endorsed by actors portraying scientists, doctors and nurses. Dressing up ads in the garb of science is one form of scientism.
Interestingly, some contend that all of science (and not just cheesy ads) is really just another kind of mythmaking. These critics argue that science is always biased at some level, has degrees of institutionalized corruption, and reflects some kind of culturally relative paradigm (way of seeing the world).
From this perspective, science is a kind of temporary fiction. Its method does generate practical and helpful results. But some argue that scientists should better recognize their limits and not make overblown truth claims based on the visible successes of the scientific method. After all, this method is, to put it simply, one that tests hypotheses. And any hypothesis is always subject to falsification—if not today, perhaps tomorrow. So technologies usually improve, as does our grasp of ourselves and the world around us.
¹ This historical introduction is derived from David Macey’s The Penguin Dictionary of Critical Theory, 2000, pp. 100-101.
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Deviance is a statistical term but it’s also an area of study in sociology, psychiatry, psychology and criminology.
In the social sciences deviance is about trying to understand why people break social norms and what this means for the individuals who live in and, together, comprise society. At least, that would be a good beginners definition. But in reality the social sciences dig much deeper and ask some tough questions about the why’s and how’s of deviance.
For starters, the social understanding of normality and abnormality varies dramatically across cultures and throughout history. What’s okay here is not necessarily okay there. And what’s okay now was not necessarily okay back then.
In the West, studies indicate that, on the whole, our correctional institutions do not really correct criminal offenders. On their release from prison, many resume a life of crime and become repeat offenders.
Interestingly enough, some functionalist sociologists say that society needs or, at least, indirectly benefits from crime and high recidivism rates. Criminality keeps large sectors of the labor force employed, especially those connected to law enforcement and the justice system, as well as those businesses that benefit from selling crime deterrent products (e.g. alarm and surveillance systems, locks, encryption and anti-theft software).
Also, the pioneering sociologist Emile Durkheim suggested that deviance serves another positive social function. It forces us to realize just what our rules and regulations are. And in so doing, deviance actually strengthens the social bond among the majority who, so they believe, are not deviant.
Imagine, for instance, taking a ride in an elevator. Suddenly a stranger takes their shirt off and asks you to rub their shoulders. Our society does have a place where this kind of behavior is socially acceptable among strangers—namely, the massage and physiotherapy clinic. But it is not acceptable on the elevator! And if someone tried to do that, most of us would instantly know that it wasn’t, and this knowledge would reinforce our sense of belonging to the larger clan. That is, society.
Other thinkers say that to passively accept the supposed functional aspect of deviance is to deny the possibility of a world without crime or, at least, one in which crime is not pandemic to society.
Postmodern thinkers like Michel Foucault note the relativity of the term deviance and suggest that its meaning is derived through social power. For Foucault, power discursively marks off the deviant from the normal individual. In so doing, the deviant becomes marginalised—that is, deprived of the goods, opportunities, rights, privileges and other pleasures that the normal person is entitled to. This process may occur somewhat automatically when different professionals become consciously (or unconsciously) convinced of their own unshakeable authority in determining the normal, the moral and the legal.
However, corruption theorists point to the hypocrisy of societies that incarcerate low-status, petty criminals with tough sentences while government leaders and business elites caught engaging in illegitimate activities are usually given a proverbial slap on the wrist.
Others believe that deviance is largely a genetic problem. That is, criminals inherit bad genes and there’s not too much that can be done about it. To counter this claim, many sociologists say that learning and cultural deprivation have much to do with the making of a deviant.
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The DSM-IV-TR (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Version IV with Text Revisions) is the most recent manual developed by the American Psychiatric Association, one used by health professionals to classify various psychological disorders, generally referred to as mental illnesses.
The DSM-IV-TR is used around the world, along with two other manuals (The ICD-10 produced by the World Health Organization and The Chinese Classification of Mental Disorders produced by the Chinese Society of Psychiatry).
Each diagnosis is number-coded and depending on the country, may be used by hospitals, clinics and insurance companies.
Some postmodern thinkers and particularly anti-psychiatry groups say that the DSM-IV-TR, along with its counterparts, constructs (as in creates) rather than classifies mental illnesses. For those unfamiliar with this idea, it might take a while to understand just what these thinkers are saying. But in a nutshell, postmodern critiques of the DSM-IV-TR argue that certain illnesses are, in a sense, created by the way that those with social power interpret unusual behaviors. In more common parlance, these thinkers say that those who benefit from the status quo tend to label certain people who behave differently from the social rules and expectations of the day.
These kinds of conceptual and historically based critiques of the DSM-IV-TR and of psychiatry, in general, tend to draw on the work of thinkers like Michel Foucault, Thomas Szaz, R. D. Laing, Ram Dass, David Lukoff, Stanislav Grof, L. Ron Hubbard (the founder of Scientology) and others.
Other critiques focus not so much on the issue of the DSM-IV-TR’s analytical validity but on the possibility of negligence by incompetent practitioners.
Debates also exist about the relation between psychiatric classification, on the one hand, and cultural, political and economic realities on the other hand, the most visible example being the link between pharmaceutical companies and the discipline of psychiatry, and a less visible example being political in-fighting among psychiatrists.
While some readily dismiss the DSM-IV-TR as a kind of 21st-century witch hunter’s manual, we’d do well to remember that psychiatry (along with its diagnostic tools) is a developing science.¹ And human beings do live in a social and largely organizational world, and those who differ dramatically often do suffer, and in violent cases, cause others to suffer (or die).
The fact that psychiatry is a developing science is often overlooked or negatively construed by its more forceful critics, while embraced by its supporters. Regardless of one’s philosophical position on this point, sociologists will rightly note that the DSM-IV-TR still enjoys a high degree of societal legitimacy and legal power.
To this Ofer Zur, Ph.D. adds:
The DSM is a political not a scientific document. It pathologizes women, children, and minorities. It defines existentially normal behaviors as mental illnesses. It is a money making endeavor for psychiatry and other mental health professionals. It ‘dares’ to define what is normal and what is abnormal and who should be free or detained against their will…[one may find] a detailed critical article about the DSM at http://www.zurinstitute.com/dsmcritique.html » See in context
¹ As I write this a new DSM V is currently being forged, among much debate and controversy. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DSM-5
Erasmus Desiderius (originally Gerrit Gerritszoon 1467-1536) was a Dutch scholar, man of letters and statesman born in Rotterdam. His humorous and insightful writings about religion during the Renaissance, especially the practices of the clergy, won him renown and gained controversy among the intellectual and religious elites of his day.
A former Augustinian monk (1487) and priest (1492), his most famous work, In Praise of Folly, (1509) apparently was written in only a week as an idle pastime while visiting, and for the benefit of, Sir Thomas More. But its numerous scholarly references suggest that it was re-worked prior to publication.
Holding many views that would not seem out of place for a contemporary thinker, Erasmus has the extra benefit of not being swayed by contemporary scientific materialism. Insanity, for instance, is said to be of two types:
One kind is sent from hell by the vengeful furies whenever they let loose their snakes and assail the hearts of men with lust for war, insatiable thirst for gold, the disgrace of forbidden love…or some other sort of evil…The other is quit different, desirable above everything, and is known to come to me. It occurs whenever some happy mental aberration frees the soul from its anxious cares and at the same time restores it by the addition of manifold delights.”¹
Probably due to his keen intelligence, he was never persecuted for his views. He seems to have mastered the art of getting the knives of notables to butter his bread instead of stabbing him in the back.
Erasmus was a humanist who believed that the ethical principles of religion were more important than its rules, regulations, doctrines and ceremonies. He took great pains to illustrate that the clergy was rife with hypocrisy and corruption. Colloquia familiaria (1519) was a parody of abuses and degeneracy among the clergy.
After some time Erasmus denounced the Reformation figure Martin Luther, whom he had formerly praised. Luther’s dogmatic theology was too rigid for Erasmus’ free-style thinking. Among his other works, Erasmus was the first to translate the Greek New Testament.
¹ Erasmus of Rotterdam, Praise of Folly and Letter to Martin Dorp, 1515, trans. Betty Radice, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973, p. 121.
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It’s often said that communism breeds mediocrity at best, and downright shoddiness at worst. And most in the developed world would agree that communism has failed miserably due to its lack of capitalist incentives for (a) company owners to make better widgets and (b) workers to create a better standard of living through hard work and merit.
But the founders of the communist ideology did make some thought-provoking – if biased and pessimistic – criticisms of capitalist society.
One of those criticisms deals with the notion of false consciousness. The idea of false consciousness is found in Karl Marx‘s theory but it’s not specifically defined by Marx. The term first appears in a letter written by his German comrade, Friedrich Engels:
Ideology is a process accomplished by the so-called thinker consciously, indeed, but with a false consciousness. The real motives impelling him remain unknown to him, otherwise it would not be an ideological process at all. Hence he imagines false or apparent motives.”¹
Subsequent Marxists and lefty sociologists use the term ‘false consciousness’ to apparently account for the dynamics of class-based exploitation. Specifically, the working class (proletariat) distorts their relationship with the ruling class—that is, the worker’s understanding of his or her relation to the owners of the means of production is based on ideology instead of fact.
The proletariat’s true condition of submission to exploitative, dominating powers is effectively replaced by a phoney belief in equality, involvement and duty. Duped into believing ideological stories as if they were truth, the masses willingly – but unconsciously so – participate in their own oppression.
Talking about contemporary society, neoMarxists often say the distortion of actual conditions is largely effected through ads, the entertainment industry, and the mass media. So neoMarxists would say that a song like, for instance, Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” stirs up patriotic emotions among workers who happily trudge out to the factory to make widgets for a company owner who reaps obscene profits from their hard labor. And those very same factory workers save money so they can buy “American made” trucks to feel patriotic, a sense of belonging, and pride.
Another example might be what I saw today on Yonge St. in downtown Toronto. A sort of weather-beaten looking fellow who might have been living on the streets was wearing a brand new Globe and Mail baseball jacket with fine gold lettering on black.
The Globe and Mail is Canada’s conservative newspaper. I’ve heard it called an “old man’s” paper, meaning that it generally represents the interests of conservatives with quite a bit of money. And I think it would strike some neoMarxists as ironic – and a proof of false consciousness – that this fellow was wearing that particular jacket.
These two illustrations concerning a rock and roll song and a newspaper jacket are, of course, overly cynical. But this is how many communists thinkers would view things. Someone more sympathetic to capitalism would add that factory workers receive good benefits, have a humane workplace, and are always free to leave and try something else. That is, the possibility for upward mobility exists in capitalism while it’s virtually absent in communism.
Moreover, one could argue that capitalist workers are not as dumb as Marxist theorists tend to assume, and that workers truly believe in the core values of their country—especially when compared to the violent and oppressive regimes that make up many other countries around the globe.
As for the baseball jacket, maybe that person would be out on the street in any social system. And perhaps some kind soul from the newspaper was just trying to help keep him warm.
The idea of false consciousness has also been criticized by academics. Some see it as a condescending perspective generated by social theorists who wrongly believe something along the lines of:
We intelligent theorists know what the average people want better than they, themselves, do.
Other sharp thinkers like Michel Foucault question the very idea of class and the social dynamic implied by it. For Foucault, false consciousness (and the idea of class-based oppression upon which it rests) contains far too many simplifications and faulty constructs that have little bearing on what’s really going on.
For Foucault, the struggle isn’t just about two main groups (company owners and workers). Instead, it’s a complicated, ever changing matrix of discourses, practices, and power relationships.²
² The Foucauldian perspective has its own shortcomings, particularly in its simplistic view of power. But this is a point debated elsewhere at Think Free.
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Individual Rights and Freedoms is an admirable political ideal that aims to defend the fundamental rights of an individual within society. However, once put into political practice, defining and upholding the idea of individual rights and freedoms usually presents an ongoing challenge.
For sociologists like Zygmunt Baumann, modern democracies exhibit an uneasy tension between individual rights on the one hand, and individual freedoms on the other hand.
The problems is this: How can individuals be perfectly free while belonging to a society which by definition requires some kind of functional interdependence? What if, for example, your neighbors’ freedom to have a party interferes with your right to sleep at night or, if you work the night shift, during the daytime?
Due to potential conflicts like these we have laws that are continually being created or modified to try to protect and promote individual rights, as well as the ideals upheld by a certain social body.
This sounds great. But some like Scott Turrow suggest that laws do not necessarily solve problems because justice systems often favor high status groups at the expense of lower status groups. And in unduly corrupt societies, legal systems tend to go lightly on some offenders while slamming others.
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