Do Arabs have a different concept of "corruption"?

Interesting article:

In a nutshell, Rosen says he’s heard, again and again, from Arabs that, as they understand it, “Corruption is the failure to share any largess you have received with those with whom you have formed ties of dependence.”

Is he right? Are U.S. officials in Afghanistan or Iraq, for example, talking at cross-purposes to local politicos when they encourage the creation of a corruption-free civil society?

Afghans aren’t Arabs.

But I think it’s fair to say that different cultures have different views of what constitutes corruption.

The idea (ideal?) that government and business should be “non-corrupt” as we understand that concept is of relatively recent vintage and very specific to a limited range of political/cultural milieus (namely, Western European democracies and their colonies). Take a look at this map:

As the OP suggests, there are different priorities that would trump, or make irrelevant, this particular definition of “good government” or “non-corruption.” You had a chance to help a family/clan member and didn’t? Someone (citizen) did you (gov’t official) a favor, and you didn’t reciprocate? Now that’s shameful.

Suffice to say that successful implementation of the Western European-style “ban” on corruption (ban being hypothetical, as we know there’s plenty of corruption in practice even in the West) is possibly/likely nigh impossible, a non-starter, in any highly-income-stratified, non-homogeneous, tribal, culture, which defines not only Afghanistan but most of the world outside the U.S. and N.W. Europe.

Hereabouts, corruption is simply a given. Everyone who can takes what he can for himself and his family. They seem to see this as unity and mutual support against the world. (Yesterday a student he did not copy his homework, he and his friend ‘worked together.’)

If we’re going to spend billions to defend them, to defeat insurgencies and to help build their civil societies, how strenuously can we insist that they adopt our views of corruption? Very frustrating.

Factually, we cannot assume that they will/can/should, even if morally we ought to be able to.

This has significant (and wildly underestimated) implications for our various nation-building enterprises, for immigration policy, for diplomacy. There’s an inborn Pollyannaish strain in Western European thinking that says but of course once we liberate/aid/give asylum to these poor oppressed folk, they’ll start acting like a bunch of SWPL soccer moms.

That map I posted reinforces just how naiive such an assumption is. People who have no notion of Locke, democracy, the social contract, have no more reason than does the man in the moon to assume that what we call “corruption” is anything more than doing your duty to family and clan and/or taking advantage of outsider suckers. There is a reason the U.S. has never had an “ally” worth a darn outside of (parts of ) N.W. Europe, its dependencies, and places that had a U.S. template forced down on them (Japan, Philippines maybe),.

It goes much beyond the idea of corruption. Frankly, I’m much more concerned with the treatment of women in those countries (especially Afghanistan) than I am about corruption. Corruption is just about money.

And that’s the problem with nation building in that part of the world. There is no reason for us to assume that they share our values or that they want to remake their culture into something like ours. In fact, it’s extremely naive and dangerous to think that they would.

Fons Trompenaars, the Belgian sociologist, expressed this in terms of “universalistic vs particularistic” cultures. In universalistic cultures (such as US, UK, most of Western Europe), the LAW and the RULES have precedence. In particularistic cultures (such as South America and Asia), individual circumstances are more important than the rules. (See Trompenaars’ Riding the Waves of Culture for more.)

It’s not just corruption in terms of bribery. It’s also what’s more important, a legal contract or friendship/relationships, and a host of other difference that spring from differing cultural attitudes towards the importance of rules and law.

Yes, there’s a reason, but varying conceptions of corruption aren’t it.

I had heard this as well. In Asia for example, tradition and relationships were far more important than applying the law evenly to all.

Not necessarily. Should a person be able to get away with committing crimes because they can buy off officials? Would you want to live in a town downstream from a dam built by the local governernor’s idiot brother knowling they probably let a lot of code violations slide?

Nonsense. “What we call corruption” is fundamentally, objectively bad for the functioning of governments and businesses. We are talking about plain old human shortsightedness here, not just cultural differences; they are ultimately screwing over their friends just as much as they are screwing over anyone else.

Certainly; the reason being that America is the enemy of everyone. We don’t treat other countries as allies, only as dupes to be exploited. America is a bad ally.

You can’t believe I disagree with that. All I’ve pointed out is that it is only a small minority of the world’s countries/cultures that have (ever) embraced that objective truth (which proposition I also doubt you’ll disagree with).

That’s not realistic. The UK, Germany, France, pretty much all the Western European democracies, have been net beneficiaries of the U.S.'s protection and patronage, as have Japan and South Korea. Do they do what the U.S. tells them to do? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

France, net beneficiary of US " *protection and patronage *" ??? You have some back up work to do here (especially regarding the Iraq invasion and how the US treats its “allies”).

Net beneficiaries means that some things are positive, some negative, but overall they sum out positive. Had the US pulled out of Europe right after WWII and gone completely isolationsit, it’s quite likely the Soviets would have run through the whole place instead of being confined to Eastern Europe.

As far as the Iraq invasion goes, France stayed out. How was that bad for France? Sure, there were some sour words between the two countries, but both continued to cooperate on any number of levels that were mutually benefitial.

There are still people in the world that believe Stalin wanted Western Europe?

More importantly, that was over 60 years ago. The fact that Americans trying to defend their alleged usefulness as allies have to go back that far is telling.

That’s why France promptly pulled out of NATO, an American creation.


As for Stalin having designs on Western Europe – last I checked, Berlin and the Eastern portion of Germany were part of Western Europe. I guess we have to take him at his word (and guess the Soviet 8th Guards Army wasn’t prowling around the Fulda Gap for 45 years for their health).

There were no European wars after WWII. That was a PAX Americana. The fact that we have to go back that far to see the beginning of the benefit is the telling part.

As for Stalin and Western Europe, Germany is part of the W.E.

I have relatives in Japan and their idea of morality is, let’s say situational.
For example they would all agree that stealing is immoral, but they would also never think twice about lying to cover up for a relative who stold.

I don’t claim this is widespread but it is certainly prevelent in the people I know.

NATO without America would have held off the evil Soviets just fine as they had nukes.

No it wasn’t, America hasn’t ever shown the ability or desire to stop wars; if anything we prefer to encourage them so we can sell weapons. They stopped fighting because at this point doing so is no longer profitable, and the last two World Wars were enough of a lesson to teach them if not us that fact.