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Corruption and the Portuguese – Attitudes, Practices and Values

Author: (A anunciar em breve)
Published: October/2008
Colection: MAIS ACTUAL
Publisher: RCP Edições

Stock: Available
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 Format: Paper Book
 Pages: 220
 Cover: Capa mole
 Dimention: 15x23 cm
 Price: €12.72 €10.81

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The book comprises five chapters.

In the first chapter, a summary of the main outcomes of the project “Corrupção e Ética em Democracia: O Caso de Portugal” characterises the ethical environment in which the Portuguese Democracy operates. The values which the Portuguese associate with the Democratic State are presented and discussed, the main issues being the possible trade-offs between three forms of democratic legitimacy: input legitimacy (equality, accountability and merit), throughput legitimacy (transparency and legality) and output legitimacy (efficiency, impartiality, compassion and informality). The clarification and contrast of the judgements of citizens on improper behaviour, both in public and private life, are other dimensions explored in the first chapter, which ends with a social index of corruption. The authors use this index to argue that the Portuguese have a somewhat limited social definition of corruption, leading them to frequently choose to do more than the law permits and less than ethic demands.

In the second chapter, Luís de Sousa, adopting a sociological perspective and using data from the European Social Survey (Round 2), of the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) and from the survey “Corrupção e Ética em Democracia: O Caso de Portugal”, argues that the problem of corruption in Portugal is not restricted to practices of bribery in the Government resulting from occasional opportunity structures. For the author, the problem is more structural: on the one hand, it mirrors a civic culture centred on individual success and characterised by a residual or secondary notion of ‘public goods’ in relation to the interests/needs of the groups of primary relations (family, clan, party), where the confusion of power and the mixture of genders is ethically acceptable; on the other hand, it results from the manner in which the political and administrative power is structured in society, i.e. opaque, restricted (of difficult access), concentrated, insensitive to the problems of citizens and permeable to the interests and pressures of private individuals. However, the author does not uphold the idea, somewhat widespread in our days, that the opportunity structures for corruption vary in inverse ratio to the size of the State, i.e. ‘more State = more corruption’. This is a narrow interpretation of the evolution of the modern State. More State does not mean more corruption. The privatisation and outsourcing processes, as a form of emaciating of the State, have been strongly marked by corruption. The liberal State in the United Kingdom towards the end of the 19th century was one of the most corrupt regimes in Europe. It is not by chance that the first law on corruption dates back to 1889 (later revised in 1906 and in 1916). In the 70´s, when the United Kingdom had one of the strongest and more interventionist States in Europe, corruption was almost unheard of. Following the same line of thought, the Scandinavian countries, which are perhaps the most interventionist in Europe, are known for having an immaculate track record in the various international indices of governability and perception of corruption, such as the Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International. The problem does not lie in the interventionism but rather in the type of interventionism; it is not in the dimension of the State but rather in its quality. Unlike the ensuing chapter by José M. Magone, the author believes that Portugal is a two-speed democracy and that modernisation is not a linear or progressive process. It is possible for a modern Portugal, where democratic demands are more consistent, comprehensive and persistent, to co-exist with a neo-patrimonialistic Portugal, characterised by clientelism and “pulling strings”.

The third chapter, by José M. Magone, takes on a more structuralistic and comparative perspective, where he attempts to show that one of the factors that best explains the nature and extension of the corruption phenomenon in Portugal is the fact that Portuguese citizens continue to have a neo-patrimonialistic political culture. Despite three decades of democracy in Portugal, the organised civil society continues to be very frail, unparticipatory and unassertive vis-à-vis political power when compared with that of Northern European countries. In this chapter, the author places the weak political and civic commitment of the Portuguese at the fore of the corruption problem. According to the author, societies that enjoy more active/participatory citizenship and a committed and responsible civic sense are much more attentive to and less tolerant of corruption. This context of alertness and collective pressure, which could help to consolidate and disseminate ethical standards in public life, is still very much in an embryonic state in the case of Portugal. The author observes that the Portuguese democracy is currently at a crossroads. Portugal is involved in a long and arduous process of transition from a formal democracy to a true qualitative democracy, which means that corruption will continue to arise and undermine our political system on a regular basis, despite the modernisation efforts that have gradually been undertaken by the various governments.

The fourth chapter explores the public/private duality in social judgements briefly touched upon in this introduction. Carlos Jalali analyses the attitudes of the Portuguese in relation to the ethics and fight against corruption in public life, examining their expectations and experiences in relation to ethical behaviours. More specifically, he tries to assess two issues frequently brought up in the literature on ethics and corruption in public life, which the survey “Corrupção e Ética em Democracia: O Caso de Portugal” makes it possible to test empirically. First of all, if the dissatisfaction with democracy is related to the perception of the existence of corruption. And secondly, if the perceptions of the existence of corruption are related to the proximity to Government parties. In the author’s opinion, the Portuguese appear to be “hard and demanding” in relation to the behaviour of their political class, a demand that is not always met in private terms.

And finally, the chapter by António Pedro Dores raises a pertinent question in the current moralising context of public life in which we live. Never before has corruption been so widely covered by the media, arousing such great interest by both national and international institutions, and giving rise to so many combat initiatives, most of which are symbolic in nature and produce very few palpable results. The words of the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, when the General Meeting adopted the United Nations Convention against Corruption (commonly known as the Merida Convention) on 31 October 2003, represent the moralist optimism that has blinded the more well-intentioned and has served as political subterfuge for those who seek, through anti-corruption measures, to make politics by other means.

Corruption is indeed an evil that is always present but has it always been so condemned? And has it always represented a toxic effect for societies? In the light of the Durkheim’s teachings, we could conclude that corruption, as a crime, is a manifestation of creativity, innovation, without which societies are inert. Societies have lived with the phenomenon over the centuries. It is therefore legitimate to ask what type of society we aspire to with “anti-corruption” measures. A society “with no corruption” is Utopia. A “policed society”, based on purgatives, moralising campaigns and selective repression is possible, yet it presents extremely high costs, particularly in terms of the liberties and guarantees to which we have become accustomed in the West. A “hypocritical society”, based on a scandalised public opinion and fed by sensationalistic mediatism and cosmetic legislative reforms, is perhaps the most probable. Based on the assumption that a moralistic perspective of corruption may be counterproductive, António Pedro Dores asks himself: “But, then, how can we look at corruption with the aim of containing it within acceptable limits?” Mobilising a specific theoretical perspective, – the “theory of states of mind” –, a qualitative, multivariate statistical methodology, – the analysis of correspondence –, António Dores identifies the ideological framework in which the “anti-corruption spirit” is developed in Portugal: non-conformist, anti-neo-liberal, distinct from security-focused  tendencies, it is understood chiefly as a countervailing power not only of the State, but also of the business world and of the church.

* * * 

We hope that this volume will arouse the interest of various publics. For students of Social Sciences and academics who dedicate themselves to these matters, the book may prove to be a revelation due to its pioneering and exhaustive character on the attitudes, practices and perceptions of the Portuguese in relation to corruption. It may also prove useful for decision-makers or agents who are directly or indirectly responsible for the fight against corruption insofar as no action policy or strategy may overlook the manner in which the phenomenon manifests and transforms itself in society. Finally, we hope that it may also serve as reflection for the anonymous reader, should he also form part of this sample, or at least be represented in it, of what the Portuguese think of corruption. We wish you all attentive and curious reading.


From the same author:
- The Media Groups in Portugal
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From the same colection:
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Democracies have undergone significant changes in terms of the ethical principles on which their own institutions and performance are based. Exposed corruption over the last two decades has directly or indirectly affected the perception of citizens in relation to the performance of democracy and can explain the current decline in institutional confidence levels (Johnston 1991b; Mény 1996a; Pharr and Putnam 2000).

This can be understood as a symptom, rather than a cause, of a more profound uneasiness of Western democracies, which include the Portuguese democracy. Some of the changes in the decision processes have placed in jeopardy the applicability of the ethical principles that govern (or should govern) res publica. The separation and lack of renovation of the parties, the autism of rulers in relation to the problems of citizens, the emptying out of Parliament and its resignation to a submissive function vis-à-vis governments, the resizing of the Public Administration for economicist reasons, the proliferation of new administrative hybrids without the clear definition of borders of public/private interaction and the safeguarding of the public interest, the incompetence of the State vis-à-vis the challenges of the global economy. In the middle of this evolution, the fear and frustration of citizens can be felt more intensely than their hopes and optimism. It is therefore legitimate to assess if the current intensity with which the phenomenon is discussed in the public arena is a result of a more demanding citizenship in relation to the exercise of public/elected duties or if, on the other hand, it is merely a case of a sporadic reaction, generated by the hypersensitivity of a certain type of events and fuelled by a sensationalistic media.

The optimism of modernisation theories, which stood for a gradual reduction of the phenomenon as institutions of the rule of law become more consolidated and those holding public/electoral positions, as well as citizens in general, internalise ethical standards that define and regulate the exercise of their public duties, does not seem to correspond to the reality that can be observed in Europe. This process is not automatic. The appropriation of ethical standards in public life is not a linear and progressive process. In fact, the theories of democracy seem to indicate that as democratic regimes become more consolidated and as practices and procedures become more routine, citizens may finally carry on with their own lives, becoming more confident in the performance of their institutions. The degree to which such disinterested confidence does not become dysfunctional for the very performance of the institutions, making citizens too permissive and not very responsible, is something that needs to be analysed.

Through a national survey applied to a representative sample of the population, the ethical dilemmas affecting the understanding, adherence to and perception of citizens in relation to these ethical principles in democracy were investigated. The main objective of the study is to understand the ethical environment in which the Portuguese democracy operates, with particular focus on the analysis of the perception and practices of citizens: What ethical standards do citizens expect from those elected by them in particular and from the democratic State in general? What do citizens think of corruption? What type of behaviour in the performance of duties gives rise to public condemnation and what is the social definition of corruption? To what degree to their expectations correspond or contradict the scholastic notions of democracy and citizenship? How important is corruption vis-à-vis other topics on the public agenda? How do they define the behaviour related to the performance of public and political positions (social definition of corruption)? How do they define the fight against corruption and what measures/reforms do they feel are vital in the fight against corruption?These are some of the questions that are dealt with in this volume.

The contributions below aim to provide the public in general with some of the study’s conclusions in the hope that, with the humbleness that is necessarily associated to the complexity of the world of social perceptions, they may serve to improve the sociological understanding of the phenomenon.



Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

Maria José Morgado


Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23

Luís de Sousa and João Triães


Summary: “Corrupção e Ética

em Democracia: o Caso de Portugal” . . . . . . . . .53

Luís de Sousa and João Triães


1. ‘I don’t pay for gloves,

I just pull the strings’ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75

Luís de Sousa


2. Neo-patrimonial

democracy and political corruption. . . . . . . . . . .101

José M. Magone


3. Public vices, Private virtues. . . . . . . . . . . . . .131

Carlos Jalali


4. Anti-corruption spirit. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .161

António Pedro Dores


Conclusion. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .195

Luís de Sousa and João Triães

Bibliography. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .209



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