The Fit Between Changes to the Global Corruption Regime and Indigenous Perceptions of Corruption in Kazakhstan

Thumbnail Image
Penn collection
Legal Studies and Business Ethics Papers
Degree type
Grant number
Copyright date
Related resources
Nichols, Philip M

The study of corruption by both scholars and policymakers has undergone a startling transformation in the last decade. What once underwent almost no scholarly examination now inspires dozens of articles and books.' What once was not even mentioned in international financial institutions is now a centerpiece of reform efforts.2 What once played virtually no role in legal theory now represents-in the form of an overwhelming international consensus that transnational bribery should be criminalized and that other legal reforms should be undertaken-a dramatic change in the international legal regime. The focussing of theoretical attention on corruption and the change in international policymakers' attitudes have not been accompanied by a similar surge in the empirical study of corruption. 4 The lack of empirical research, particularly into attitudes and perceptions toward corruption, is unfortunate for at least three reasons. First, legal scholars and policymakers must have an empirical understanding in order to effectuate the changes to law and policy demanded by the change in the international regime.5 Second, as a theoretical matter-particularly with respect to theoretical explanations of international regime changes-an understanding of other attitudes and perceptions is necessary to deal with issues of imperialism, economic efficiency and allocation, and institutional choice.6 Third, and most interesting, the anecdotal but very persistent notion that corruption is embraced and accepted by some cultures -that it is a normal way of doing business in some places -cries out for empirical testing. This Article reports on and analyzes the results of a survey conducted in the Republic of Kazakhstan, a former republic of the Soviet Union located in Central Asia. Much of the survey asked questions regarding attitudes towards and perceptions of corruption. For those who are interested in non-Western attitudes toward corruption, Kazakhstan represents an excellent source of information. Kazakhstan is culturally distinct from the West and from Asia, a distinction amplified by Central Asia's physical isolation. Kazakhstani ideas of government and other institutions differ markedly from those in the West. Central Asia as a whole has been physically and politically isolated from the West for several generations. Rather than simply asking Kazakhstani respondents whether they embrace corruption or whether corruption is part of the inherent Kazakhstani culture,8 the questions in this survey can be analyzed in four different ways: absolute evaluations of the amount of corruption, relative evaluations of changes in the amounts of corruption, the public salience or importance of corruption, and support for anticorruption regimes.9 These four means of analyzing the responses indicate that corruption is overwheliningly condemned in Kazakhstan and that the vast majority of Kazakhstani support anticorruption reforms. These findings are particularly robust because they cut across ethnic, gender, income, education, and settlement lines; even when respondents are sorted according to these characteristics the rejection of corruption is still overwhelming. These findings have obvious importance to those engaged in the study or implementation of the new global anticorruption regime. The findings lend little support to theories that explain regime change in terms of dictates by hegemons. The findings indicate broad support for anticorruption measures in Kazakhstan and even indicate specific measures that might be undertaken. Before discussing the specific findings, however, it is necessary first to discuss the general nature of corruption.

Date Range for Data Collection (Start Date)
Date Range for Data Collection (End Date)
Digital Object Identifier
Series name and number
Publication date
Journal title
University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Economic Law
Volume number
Issue number
Publisher DOI
Journal Issue
Recommended citation