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Law and Development Review

Editor-in-Chief: Lee, Y.S.

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Corruption and Political Culture in Africa: History, Meaning, and the Problem of Naming

Moses E. Ochonu
Published Online: 2011-09-22 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2202/1943-3867.1115

The ethical precision prescribed and codified by legal formulations on corruption conflicts with the on-ground difficulty of naming corruption in Africa. African state formations have been grappling with this tension since precolonial times, producing a crisis of naming and description that has mutated along with the nature and dynamics of the African state and its constitutive interests. This paper explores this tension from a transhistorical perspective. Using case studies from Nigeria and examples from Kenya and elsewhere, it examines the historical engagements of Africans, their institutions, and colonial power formations with ethics, morality, and corruption. The paper proceeds from this exploration to polemically intervene in some contemporary discourses and debates on corruption and the state in Africa. It uses the transhistorical analysis of the continuities and ruptures in corruption discourse and praxis to argue that the politics of naming is central to a comprehensive understanding of malfeasance and graft on the continent.

Keywords: corruption; Africa; colonization; patronage; Nigeria

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Published Online: 2011-09-22

Citation Information: The Law and Development Review, Volume 4, Issue 3, Pages 27–58, ISSN (Online) 1943-3867, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2202/1943-3867.1115.

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©2012 Law and Development Review.

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