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Authors: Lee, Tina
Advisors: Centeno, Miguel
Contributors: Sociology Department
Keywords: China
Economic Sociology
Organization Theory
Subjects: Sociology
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Traditional accounts of corruption present it as the outcome of civil servants who abuse public power in their pursuit of private gains. I argue however, that collusion—the coordination between two or more parties to pursue illegal ends—is not the outcome of bribery or graft, nor is it the absence of rules and their enforcement, but the obverse: A state equipped with strong institutions to achieve central policies and competent civil servants eager to fulfill their professional obligations. This argument is laid out in three empirical chapters. The first of these suggests that people, acting on the behalf of their organizations, rely on and construct stabilizing technologies—in the form of personal networks or entry into formal agreements—to resolve regulatory uncertainty. It posits that despite what appears as corrosive sources to the authority and independence of administrative rules, organizational alliances in fact, fulfill an institutional logic—a congruent set of rules and incentives that shape the perception and behavior of organizational actors. Contesting rationalities may appear in the form of contradictory logics that govern public and private actors. This is the subject of the second chapter, which focuses on local bureaucrats and firm managers who are caught between central- and local- level constraints and traces how they cooperate to resolve a dilemma produced by administrative mandate. One form of ambiguity for instance, emerges in the form of rule incongruity. While indeterminacy—produced by a rule embedded in a statute or regulation that may be subject to multiple interpretations or can be nullified by another rule—has been developed in the western legal scholarship to examine juridical discretion, I extract from this concept to articulate the condition of rule incongruity, a property of a situation where public and private actors must cope with discordant administrative constraints. I propose that it is in the interpretation and reconciliation of rule incongruity, manifested in the conflicting frames through which organizational actors interpret their actions and innovate by constructing congruent frames for action, that give rise to what the state codifies as corruption. The last of these empirical chapters reinterprets instances of collusion by positing that when contradictory logics exist, organizational actors attempt to reconcile these in the form of formal agreements or informal partnerships, or both. Doing so leads to a provisional redrawing of organizational boundaries that change existing governance structures, nullifying proximate rules for controlling opportunism. It argues that instances of individuals breaking formal rules, blurring divisions of labor, or violating regulations, are attempts at informal or substantive rationality. I define this differently from the original Weberian concept and posit that it is rather, the reliance on a unifying logic—norms and extra-organizational rules—in the attempt to achieve an organizational end. Together, these cases call into question the characterization of regulators (or the regulated) as corrupt when they violate procedural rules by adhering to economic policy (or privileged organizational alliance), challenging such rule violations as instances of neopatrimonial authority or the arbitrary exercise of power.
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Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Sociology

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