Observer Research Foundation Mumbai

Ideas and Action for a Better India

Philosophy of Corruption – by Shubha Srinivasan

This is just a philosophical debate on what is corruption? Are all forms of compromise corruption? Who is corrupt, the one who is willing to corrupt or the corruptible? Do you point fingers at the seed or the tree for its growth?

The dictionary says that corruption or to be corrupted means to break or to abuse. Corrupt activities can be defined by multiple terminologies- cheating the system, embezzlement, bribery, robbery, price fixing and electoral fraud amongst many others.

Our debate will focus upon only the issue of “innocent corruption”. Is it okay to encourage an act of corruption to bring about a greater good? Is it really possible to trigger something and then say that one is not a part of it, even if it is for the greater good?  We will not look at other studies or popular quotes but just as a debate on corruption as a vice or virtue.  Can corruption be a virtue?

If I let a child know that there is a lollypop hidden under your pillow on the days that you are good and this results in periodic good behavior on the days that the child wants a lollypop. On other days that child is just not so good. Children by definition are good, so this can just be an added virtue.  Does this make my act of inducement as a person in power or position to induce meritorious behavior justifiable?  As an adult and as a parent, I am setting my child up to expect something in return for good behavior. On the other hand, the inducement could trigger a pattern for automatic good behavior.  That again is an exception, as we are creatures of habit.

In another scenario if I let a child know that you have to inculcate a sense of good manners no matter what, this sense of non compromise can work in instilling virtues of honesty, truth and consistency. This option does not guarantee good behavior either but at the very least it will not add the characteristic vice of corruption in the guise of compromise to the child’s personality.

This example pursues an ambition of encouraging good behavior resulting in a more complete individual. Other examples could be to expose a corrupt system to bring in a better system. This assumption begins with the basic premise that society itself thrives upon a system of corruption and that all individuals will succumb to the vice-corruption.  The minute the example grows from an individual social equation of a family system to a social democratic system other parts need to fall into place. Our society has other measures in place to question corruption. The next question is can we be Machiavellian and say that we need one individual to clean up the system or do we answer an environment of corruption with the Lokpal?

Using this short example, one can argue that the person responsible for triggering an act of corruption or compromise can also be blamed for adding to the atmosphere of corruption itself, apart from making a habit out it and assuming that the person they are encouraging is corruptible.  The person accepting the terms of corruption may be virtuous to begin with or not virtuous and will add to their list of vices.


One comment on “Philosophy of Corruption – by Shubha Srinivasan

  1. George Ukagba

    The phrase `philosophy of corruption’ is misnomer. This is because the analysis of the words philosophy and corruption soon will show the coupling the two is appropriate and an unholy marriage

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This entry was posted on 11/11/2011 by in Articles, Shubha Srinivasan.
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