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Hybrid systems and syndromes of corruption


As discussed above, Johnston (2005) groups States into four regime types and shows that each regime type is associated with a corresponding syndrome of corruption: Influence Market corruption, Elite Cartel corruption, Oligarch and Clan corruption, and Official Moguls corruption.

Influence Market corruption

- often occurs in developed liberal democracies with open markets and strong political and economic institutions. These institutions sustain and restrain participation and are solid and legitimate. Corruption certainly exists, but is of a different nature than in authoritarian regimes or hybrid types. Corrupt exchanges between businessmen, lobbyists and wealthy citizens, on the one hand, and politicians, bureaucrats and party leaders, on the other, are commonplace in democracies. Where economic institutions are strong and political and social capacity is robust, corruption mostly occurs through influence peddling, as private interests seek specific benefits (e.g. obtaining a contract, modification of a regulation) via informal networks of political intermediaries such as lobbyists and legislative staff. Alternatively, elected officials trade access and influence for political funding. Much of this influence trading takes place through fully legal, publicly disclosed political contributions, and not outright bribery (Johnston, 2017). Other examples include political party funding, patronage, revolving doors of post-ministerial appointments and misuse of corporate hospitality.

Elite Cartel corruption

- primarily develops in new or reforming democracies with liberalizing markets and only moderately strong institutions. Both economic and political institutions are moderately strong. Corruption is fairly widespread but tightly controlled by elites in business, politics, the military and the media. Although the economy might be liberalized, there is resistance to new participants and the sharing of influence and wealth. The elites seek to check rising political and economic competitors from powerful coalitions unified by corruption (large family-owned business conglomerates fund political campaigns and deploy cash and gifts in exchange for favourable financing and regulation). In particular, economic elites misuse their power to strengthen their positions and control most of the country's economic power. Similar to influence markets, the rule of law is relatively strong, but influence trading via lobbying and political contributions often enjoys legal or constitutional protections. Elite Cartel corruption can coexist with significant economic growth, as the elite coalitions underwritten by corruption provide de facto predictability that partially compensates for institutional weaknesses. Electoral competition may well take place, but, in the light of behind-the-scenes linkages among elites, can be more apparent than real. Party leaders share corrupt benefits and manipulate election results. Many parties are extended personal followings of specific elites, lacking a real base in society (Johnston, 2017).

Oligarch and Clan corruption

- commonly dominates weak transitional regimes undergoing liberalization, where governance processes and official markets operate poorly. These are often post-conflict or post-dictatorship societies with weak political and economic institutions. The rule of law and property rights are weak, and confronting corruption can be risky. Formal democratic procedures offer little accountability. Mutual trust and official credibility are low, and the day-to-day authority of government may be in question in some areas. Unlike Official Mogul corruption, it can be unclear whether anyone is actually in charge. With major political and economic stakes out on the table and few effective restraints, political and economic competition can be intense as oligarchs and their clans (sometimes political factions, sometimes families) plunder both public and private sectors, often using violence to enforce contracts, collect debts, and protect assets. Thus, State mechanisms of control are weak or ineffectual and corruption thrives and disrupts the economy and investments. A climate of impunity, insecurity and unpredictability enhances oligarchs' incentives to move quickly to protect corrupt gains and enforce deals through violence, while weakening social and political opposition. Civil society tends to be weak, as are public-private boundaries. Elections may be routine, but the most important competition is outside the system, among oligarchs and their followings who influence both the government and the economy (Johnston, 2017).

Official Moguls corruption

- can be found in settings of authoritarian rule, dysfunctional markets, and weak official institutions. Political and economic institutions are weak, and numerous examples of the unjust enrichment of family and friends of the leaders exist, as well as pervasive bribery and extortion at all levels. In contrast to Oligarch and Clan situations where it can be unclear whether anyone is in charge, in the case of Official Moguls power is monopolized by a dictator, family or junta controlling political and economic opportunities for themselves and their cronies. Such leaders manipulate the economy and influence investments and aid flows. While these economies have typically opened up somewhat, they are poor, strikingly unequal societies. Economic institutions are weak, although if regime changes occur frequently, such countries and patterns often change. Economic opportunities are often monopolized by the regime and used as patronage for figures personally connected to those in charge (Johnston, 2017). Corruption-related violence is less common because there is no doubt who is in charge, but unlike Influence Markets or Elite Cartels, power and corruption are based on personal loyalties, not official roles and duties. Where Moguls operate with impunity, or where Oligarchs and Clans contend in a climate of insecurity, the new legislation and transparency provisions central to most anti-corruption scenarios will likely accomplish little. Opposition groups are weak, compromised, clandestine, or non-existent. Civil society and the rule of law may have little day-to-day meaning (Johnston, 2017). The regime suppresses critics through intimidation or torture. Official powers, roles, duties, and loyalties are less important than personal ones, and often protect corrupt schemes. In such situations, corruption is not deviance but rather is the system itself. Johnston (2014) shows that in the case of weak undemocratic States, there is little or no societal protection against corruption, and kleptocracy (rule of thieves), intimidation and patronage prevail. For a related discussion on the interplay between integrity, ethics and law that can supplement the concepts explored above, see Module 12 of the E4J University Module Series on Integrity and Ethics.

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