Skip to main content Accessibility help

The Corruption of a State*

  • J. Patrick Dobel (a1)


This article presents a theory of corruption which unifies the moral, political, economic and social causes and patterns of corruption in one theoretical framework. The theory is constructed from the scattered insights about the “corruption of the body politic,” building in particular upon the work of five theorists–Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli and Rousseau. Corruption is defined as the moral incapacity of citizens to make reasonably disinterested commitments to actions, symbols and institutions which benefit the substantive common welfare. This extensive demise of loyalty to the commonwealth comes from the interaction of human nature with systematic inequality of wealth, power and status. The corruption of the polity results in certain identifiable patterns of political conflict and competition. The central feature of these patterns is the emergence of quasi-governmental factions and an increasingly polarized class system. The politics of the factions leads to an undermining of the efficacy of the basic political structures of the society and the emergence of systematic corruption in all aspects of political life. The theory advanced in this article identifies several crucial prescriptions to stave off the tendency towards corruption. Among these are an extension of maximum substantive participation by all citizens in all aspects of political life and a stringent control over all sources of great or permanent inequality in the polity.



Hide All

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the American Political Science Association convention at Chicago in 1976. Since then, the paper has benefited immensely from the help of many individuals, notable among them ate Donald Anderson, Dennis Dutton, Jamieson Doig, Fritz Kratochwil, Arlene Saxonhouse, Lea Vaughn and Frank Wayman. I owe a special debt of gratitude to the anonymous referees whose invaluable help enabled me to rectify many of the original shortcomings. For the weaknesses that remain, the responsibility is mine.



Hide All
Aristotle, (1962). Politics. Edited and translated by Barker, Ernest. New York: Oxford University Press: Galaxy Books.
Bailyn, Bernard (1967). The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, Belknap Press.
Edelman, Murray (1964). Symbolic Uses of Politics. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press.
Machiavelli, Niccolo (1965). The Art of War. In Gilbert, Allan (ed. and trans.), Machiavelli: The Chief Works and Others, Vol. 2. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, pp. 561726.
Machiavelli, Niccolo (1965). Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius. Chief Works, Vol. 1, pp. 174529.
Machiavelli, Niccolo (1965). The History of Florence. Chief Works, Vol. 3, pp. 10251435.
Machiavelli, Niccolo (1965). The Prince. Chief Works, Vol. 1, pp. 596.
Oxford English Dictionary, Compact Edition. (1971). New York: Oxford University Press.
Pitkin, Hanna (1972). Wittgenstein and Justice. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Plato, (1957). The Republic. Translated by Lindsay, A. D.. New York: Dutton.
Pocock, J. G. A. (1973). Politics, Language and Time. New York: Atheneum, Studies in Political Theory.
Pocock, J. G. A. (1975). The Machiavellian Moment. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (1964). Considérations sur le gouvernement de Pologne. In Gagnebin, Bernard and Raymond, Marcel (eds.), Oeuvres complètes de Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Vol. 3. Paris: Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, pp. 9531041.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (1964). Du control social. Oeuvres complètes, Vol. 3, pp. 349470.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (1964). Discours sur l'economie politique. Oeuvres complètes, Vol. 3, pp. 241–78.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (1964). Discours sur l'origine et les fondemens de l'inégalité parmi les hommes. Oeuvres complètes, Vol. 3, pp. 111223.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (1964). Discours sur les sciences et les arts. Oeuvres complètes, Vol. 3, pp. 130.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (1964). Projet de constitution pour la Corse. Oeuvres complètes, Vol. 3, pp. 901–39.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (1966). Essay on the Origin of Language Which Treats of Melody and Musical Imitation. In Moran, John H. and Gode, Alexander (trans.), On the Origins of Language. New York: Ungar.
Royce, Josiah (1969). The Philosophy of Loyalty. In McDerraott, John J. (ed.), Basic Writings, Vol. 2. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Thucydides, (1934). The Peloponnesian War. In Crawley, Robert (trans.), The Complete Works of Thucydides. New York: Random House, Modern Library.
Wolin, Sheldon S. (1960). Politics and Vision. Boston: Little, Brown.
Wood, Gordon S. (1969). The Creation of the American Republic, 1776–1787. New York: Norton.

The Corruption of a State*

  • J. Patrick Dobel (a1)


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.