Bribery in Classical Athens (PhD diss. Princeton) by Kellam Conover

By Kellam Conover

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There are immediate, salient problems with taking a definition like “abuse of public power for private gain”—already laden in specific normative terms, it seems—and trying to translate it from one normative context to another. Even within a given set of cultural norms, it is unclear on what grounds ‘abuse’ should be defined. 2 Again, we could simply limit ourselves to one way of defining ‘abuse’ (or ‘power’ or ‘gain’, for that matter). But doing so obscures the crucial political work done by, say, limiting our scope to formal regulations of official conduct while disregarding both public opinion about what the law should say and the extent to which the law is seen to foster the public interest.

Cf. Thompson (1995: 66). In examining US federal laws on campaign financing, Lowenstein (2004) underscores the role corrupt intent plays both in the law and in how people negotiate the giving and receiving of campaign contributions. ). 17 Alternatively, some set of non-universal norms might provide a competing frame. So a local high-school athletic team might be let down if one of the teammates is bribed to throw the game, but we probably would not say that a societal or universal norm had been transgressed.

In this case, the exchange constitutes the violation: thereafter the child presumably would be striving to get good grades not because she owed it to her parents, but because she would be compensated for doing so. e. violating social norms—requires an enormous amount of trust. 12 The majority of bribe transactions is thus conducted between actors who are either already linked through some social network or who can rely on prevailing institutional norms to know that the transaction is safe. 13 Conflicting social frames arise when ‘insiders’ view the actions in terms of one frame, ‘outsiders’ another.

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