“When I Steal, It Is for the Benefit of Me and You”: Is Collectivism Engendering Corruption in Uganda?

Type Journal Article - International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences
Title “When I Steal, It Is for the Benefit of Me and You”: Is Collectivism Engendering Corruption in Uganda?
Volume 5
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2013
Page numbers 27-44
URL http://www.scipress.com/ILSHS.5.27.pdf
This paper examines the beliefs and practices that collectivism engenders in Uganda and how they may influence the principal-agent relationships present in the situation of “corruption”. Within some specific contexts of collectivism, vices that may qualify to be corruption may be interpreted otherwise as long as they are perceived not only serve only individual but also group or community goals. The paper shows that in some societies in Uganda, corruption or even theft can be acceptable as long as it is perceived to bring benefits to the family, kinship or community. The paper argues that the drivers and manifestations of corruption in Uganda cannot be understood without reference to beliefs and practices engendered by collectivism. It provides examples that show that in quite many collectivistic cultures, acceptance or rejection of corruption depends on the contextual interpretations of the act and the perception and meaning attached to the party to whom the act has been committed. In some cases, especially where the state has either lost or has never gained legitimacy among some sections of the population; stealing state funds may be interpreted as being “smart” rather than immoral. This tendency towards conceptualizing ‘corruption’ as something that takes place only when the individual does not share his loot with others but enjoys its benefits alone contributes to making individuals shun the individual responsibility for their corrupt actions and complicates the moral issues related to corruption in the context of collectivism. It could be that the level of individuals’ sense of responsibility for their actions in collectivistic environments is lower thus making interventions that solely focus on individual retribution less effective in combating corruption.

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