French Ambiguities in Understanding of Corruption: Concurrent Definitions
Perspectives on European Politics and Society
NL : Brill Publishers
24 - 38 p.
Grey corruption, perceptions, France, whistleblowing, norms, values
Our research adds new empirical evidence to the debate about the 'grey area' of social understandings of corruption. Focusing on French citizens' ambiguities regarding the definition of political corruption we examine the notion of 'greyness' and identify the situations that give rise to controversies concerning the social definition of behaviour as 'corrupt'. We examine the controversies that may arise from variation in the perception of behaviours as being normal or deviant, as well as from differences in evaluations (ranging from excusable to inexcusable) of their gravity. We argue that there are certain behaviours that people perceive as being deviant but not necessarily punishable because they are somehow consistent with their values and norms or belong to the category of 'petty favouritism' that have few harmful consequences for the public interest. The paper is based on a multiple correspondence analysis of data deriving from a nationally representative sample survey carried out in France in February 2006 on citizens' perceptions of professional politicians, public office holders and political corruption. The analysis reveals the existence of four types of representation, the first two of which (manifested by 50.5% of respondents) are coherent from a normative point of view while the other two types (manifested by 49.5% of respondents) are characterised by different forms of normative ambiguity.