Necessities and Structures of Corruption



In such a light, the game seems particularly rigged, between an economic model that has found no major alternative in the last half a millennium, and deeply constitutive bureaucratic architectures. In both cases, corruption is not an abnormal evil but a necessary mechanism to make up for the incredibly idealistic principles of their common origin: the humanism of Europe’s Enlightenment. As we tried to briefly argue, the corruption of Chadha, Choudrie or Gupta should be liberated from charges of personal immorality: all of them are undoubtedly smart players, but they nonetheless comply with the rules of their respective games. In particular, the capitalist environment of Chadha and Choudrie, and the modern standards of pluralistic governments for Gupta, are not only compatible with corrupt activities: they require them for the system as a whole to function. In the supposedly corruption-less western societies, political corruption has been legalized and rebaptized as lobby, just like most judicial cases today, in the USA, end in out-of-court, monetized agreements. In and outside of India, all the spotlights are thrown on the governmental corruption of the country, an easy headline to contrast with the illusory promises of an ‘emerging’ nation. But this politically correct critique hides the higher injustice: a global capitalism so rampant that it actually managed to modify constitutional rights in order to facilitate a widening of the profit gap. In the process, it succeeded in influencing the popular subconscious, now eager to recognize such monetary practices as not only legitimate or legal, but, all the way moral and respectable.

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The capitalist environment of Chadha and Choudrie, and the modern standards of pluralistic governments for Gupta, are not only compatible with corrupt activities: they require them for the system as a whole to function.

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Our discussion certainly missed many situations of importance. For instance, the three cases we mentioned concerned instances of corruption at high politico-economic levels. As we know, corruption is also an everyday mechanism encountering the life of each and every citizen of a country like India. This is what Shiv Visvanathan addressed in a recent lecture. 1 His contribution is not only insightful; it is also particularly rare in the contemporary critical climate. While the hypotheses he submits would duly deserve another commentary, we can briefly present the affinity of his understanding with our own:

“It is not that we cannot fight corruption. It is just that the way we define and battle with corruption perpetuates it as a system. By personalizing and demonizing corruption, we distort it. We need to look corruption in the eye and one cannot do that through the lenses of human rights, rational choice or management theory. In fact, the irony is that corruption perpetually distorts its own logic as a story.” 2

Closing his discussion, Visvanathan announces: “To reform corruption, one must seek to change more than corruption.” 3 This is, clearly, the vision that underlined the present essay. In agreement with Visvanathan, the argument presented here is not one justifying corruption with a line of reasoning similar to the capitalist ideology that legalized lobbies in the west, or to the aforementioned Delhi arms’ agent who simply called for the liberalization of his activity. Instead, what must be found is a way to deeply affect the reality of corruption beyond the mere neutralization of the actual corrupt agents – for the simple reasons that they are way too numerous, and precisely placed at the highest level of the political, judiciary and economic fields. When Visvanathan refers to the ‘lenses of human rights, rational choice or management theory’ as irrelevant means to fight corruption, he implies that, to a large extent, the ‘humanist’ definition of the Enlightenment was a simplistic lure that monopolized the attention of social activists for several centuries, while on the background the logic of profit (in the market) and of productivity (in the state architecture) allowed societies to persist. But this is not a thorough rejection of the humanist project of the Enlightenment. Visible in both Visvanathan’s study and the present essay, is a faithful reliance upon the Enlightenment’s values of equality, justice and personal freedom. The locus of the contention is elsewhere: it concerns the supposed medium of reference for human beings and their societies, the infamous reason professed by Immanuel Kant. Innumerable historical events have successfully proved how irrelevant reason is when it comes to stopping major human-made catastrophes. Behind the singular agent, the social actor, and even behind her immediate societal context, it is the structural logic that we must attack, and, more, the very flexibility of logic to conveniently fit any human decision. Behind corruption, there is always a new logic. Therefore, here lies the true culprit: logocentrism.


Jeelani, Mehboob. “Under the Influence.” The Caravan, November 2013.

Deshpande, Toral Varia. “Boomtown.” The Caravan, September 2013.

Kaushik, Krishn. “Team of Rivals.” The Caravan, August 2012.

Miller, Seumas. “Corruption.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2011). Accessed September 19, 2013.

Visvanathan, Shiv. “The Necessity of Corruption.” Paper presented at the 35th ITA Seminar-cum-Meeting, Jalandhar, October 19-23, 2012. Accessed October 24, 2013.

Image courtesy: Mosh Lab



  1. Shiv Visvanathan, “The Necessity of Corruption,” paper presented at the 35th ITA Seminar-cum-Meeting, Jalandhar, October 19-23, 2012, Accessed October 24,
  2. Visvanathan, “The Necessity of Corruption,” 3.
  3. Ibid., 10.