Human Affairs 23 (2):124-147 (2013)

Drawing on historical and contemporary evidence from Great Britain and Italy, this article examines actions that fall under official definitions of corruption and actions that are not illegal but are widely regarded as morally corrupt. As a social anthropologist, I argue that when dealing with the complexity of corruption and abuses of power, we need to identify what aspects of the system encourage or generate illicit practices and what aspects could instead generate real change. It is imperative to assess the precise identity of the dividing line between the legitimate and the illegitimate and between the legal and the moral, and to address both the exact relationship of the protagonists in public life to formal law and its production and their perceived legitimacy in the broader society. Empirical evidence suggests that the production of the law must take into account the moralities which inform the definition of legitimacy at the grassroots, for legislation that enjoys such legitimacy is authoritative-therefore effective-legislation, and thus is governance that benefits from and abides by such legislation
Keywords corruption  abuse of office  legitimacy  legitimation
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DOI 10.2478/s13374-013-0115-7
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