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rasoulallahbinbadisveccosassalabinnabilejeunemusulmansultan cerhso  wefaqdev iktab
الجمعة, 08 كانون2/يناير 2021 11:35

Introduction: Corruption and Democracy in Western Europe 2

كتبه  By James L. Newell
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Introduction: Corruption and Democracy in Western Europe 2
An understanding of public perceptions of, and attitudes towards, behaviour
likely to be deemed corrupt is, then, important. And yet, the achievement of that
understanding would appear to be fraught with difficulties, both philosophical and
practical. The philosophical difficulties arise from the fact that no one expresses
perceptions and attitudes without some awareness of the perceptions and attitudes of
others, and therefore no one does so free of social pressures. Variation in these
pressures thus gives rise to variation in the perceptions and attitudes individuals are
willing to admit to – but how do these fickle expressions relate to individuals’ actual
behaviour? What is certain is that the relationship is by no means straightforward.
We know, for example, that behaviour affects the content of social norms in such a
way that, though individuals may formally condemn it as ‘wrong’ when asked, they
do not ‘actually’ perceive it as morally reprehensible, especially if it is widespread. As
Enzo Papi recalled at the time of the great Tangentopoli scandal in early 1990s Italy:
When I was appointed Cogefar managing director I was given a booklet where
all the ‘obligations’ and payment dates of the company were recorded: a list of
names and numbers; an obligation that was to be rigorously honoured. Illegal
dealings were so common that I did not feel I was perpetrating a criminal act.
(Qtd in Varese, 2000, p. 7, italics added)
But if the relationship between what people say, on the one hand, and what they do
on the other remains an incognita then it is difficult to know either what it is that
actually constitutes peoples’ perceptions and attitudes, or how to tap them.
On the one hand, the best guide to people’s thoughts would seem to be given by their
behaviour or rather, action; for, as the saying has it, ‘Action speaks louder than words’.
This is partly because action necessarily entails the perceptions and attitudes (or desires
and beliefs) that give rise to it. In other words, because of what we understand it to be –
intentional behaviour – action is only action if there are desires and beliefs that lead to
it. Therefore, if people do things that appear to contradict the beliefs and desires we
assume them to have, it is impossible for us not to revise our estimates of what those
beliefs and desires are. However, the reverse is not true. That is, a given action does not
entail the existence of any specific desires or beliefs – the action of carrying an umbrella
could reflect a desire to stay dry or a desire to protect oneself from the heat – which can
only ever be inferred from action, never tapped directly.
Suppose we attempt to verify some inference from a person’s behaviour by asking
them a direct question and suppose that they reply ‘yes’. We deceive ourselves if we
think we have tapped the person’s desires and beliefs directly; for in order to take
their reaction as confirmation of our initial inference, we are obliged to make a series
of further inferences about their desires and beliefs – for example, that the sound
they have emitted reflects a desire to answer our question, rather than in involuntary
grunt; that it reflects a desire to answer truthfully; that it reflects an understanding of
the meaning of the word ‘yes’, in the English language and so on. And if we were to
attempt to verify these inferences through further questioning, we would still always
be engaged in a process of making inferences from verbal actions, locked in an
infinite regress (see Rosenberg, 1988).
Condemned, then, never to be able to do more than make inferences from what
people do, as researchers we face numerous practical obstacles in the way of gaining
 
observational access to people’s behaviour. Typically, since direct observation of
behaviour is a practical impossibility for more than a limited number of types of
behaviour on the part of a limited number of individuals, we attempt to gain the
required access though social surveys. Here, the imperative of scientific replication
creates pressure to minimise the degree of subjectivity that attends the process by
which the survey in question is carried out, through the development of structured
questionnaires. These have the advantage that, by presenting every respondent with
the same set of stimuli, the researcher can be confident that any differences in the
replies given by people belonging to different social categories are due to actual
differences between the categories rather than to variation in the stimuli. But they
have the important disadvantage that they necessarily reflect the researcher’s
preconceived ideas of what is significant and important, where these ideas may or
may not correspond with respondents’ own understandings of what is significant and
important. The risk, in short, is that the researcher ends up imposing his or her
understanding of reality on the respondents s/he seeks to study.
For example, we can ask respondents whether they agree or disagree that
corruption is more prevalent now than it was ten years ago (say) – but in order for
the resulting percentages to be of any use, we have to be able to assume both that
respondents’ understandings of the term ‘corruption’ are uniform (or at least vary in
knowable systematic ways) and that we are correct in what we take respondents to
understand by the term. That is to say, our interpretation has to be ‘correct’ in the
sense of coinciding with the actors’ own understandings. Where this is not the case,
our research findings are little more than an artefact of our method. To a give an
extreme example: imagine, with Peter Winch (1958, p. 51), that ‘democratic
institutions have been imposed on a society to which such ways of conducting
political life are quite foreign’:
The inhabitants of such a country may perhaps be cajoled into going through
the motions of marking slips of paper and dropping them into boxes but, if
words are to retain any meaning, they cannot be said to be ‘voting’ unless they
have some conception of the significance of what they are doing.
All this may appear to invite the conclusion that the study of perceptions of political
corruption – or perceptions of anything else for that matter – is a forlorn enterprise
and that one’s intellectual resources are better invested elsewhere.We would disagree.
As we have said elsewhere in relation to the phenomenon of corruption itself,
The assertions one can make . . .will not be ones that can be made with the
same degree of confidence as those that can be made about many (and perhaps
most) other forms of human behaviour. But the tentativeness with which
hypotheses must be advanced is not a good reason for abandoning the search
for them altogether. (Newell & Bull, 2003, p. 4)
قراءة 70 مرات آخر تعديل على الأربعاء, 13 كانون2/يناير 2021 10:11

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