The suggestion, contained in the assignment, as to the fact that “corruption is a Western concept and is not applicable to traditional societies, where corruption does not have such a negative meaning” can be best referred to as utterly preposterous. The conceptual fallacy of this statement can even be proven contextually, without referrals being made to relevant literature – apparently, statement’s author had a hard time realizing a simple fact that people’s perception of a corruption as such that does not have a negative meaning, does not affect the actual essence of a term. For example, in Africa many people do not ascribe much of a negative meaning to the term ‘gang-rape’, on the account of gang-raping being an integral part of their daily lives. This; however, does not imply gang-rape being less of a criminal act. The same applies to the earlier mentioned statement – the fact that in ‘traditional’ societies people seem to be perfectly comfortable, while dealing with corruption, does not suggest these ‘traditional’ societies being less corrupt – utilization of linguistic euphemisms to refer to the notion of corruption, does not make it appear in more favorable light, in the eyes of those who rely on their sense of logic, while assessing surrounding reality.
Given the fact that, during the course of recent decades, native-born citizens in Western countries have been deliberately brainwashed to think of the concept of Western civilization as something necessarily ‘evil’, ‘male chauvinistic’ and ‘imperialistic’, it comes as no surprise that the suggestions, as the one contained in the assignment, now enjoy semi-academic validity. For example, in their article Yeung and Tung (1996), who teach economics at University of British Columbia, offer a Chinese euphemism for the term corruption – a guanxi, which they define as: “The establishment of a connection between two independent individuals to enable a bilateral flow of personal or social transactions” (p. 55). According to the authors, it is not only that managers’ reliance on guanxi, while conducting business, is fully appropriate in China, but that it should also be the case in Western countries as well: “While relationships and networking are also important in the West their role is often overshadowed by institutional law, which establishes what can and should be done” (p. 64). In civilized countries, law always represents the voice of final authority, especially when business practices are being concerned. Apparently, Yeung and Tung had a hard time understanding this simple fact, just as it is the case with many owners of Chinese restaurants, who serve dog and cat meat as ‘chicken’ to unsuspecting White customers.
It appears that the author of a statement, contained in the assignment, is being utterly ignorant as to the fact that it is namely the ‘traditional’, rural societies, which serve as the breeding ground for corruption. In rural areas, people do not have any other option but to exist as integral elements of a community, while striving to establish close and personal relations with other community’s members – hence, ensuring their physical survival. This is also the reason why people endowed with peasant-mentality are known for their talent in making 10-15 children per family – in hunger-ridden rural areas of Third World, it increases the chances for at least one of these children to grow into adulthood.
Thus, the very notion of ‘gift culture’ cannot be discussed as ‘thing in itself’, outside of objectively existing socio-political realities, which define the mode of people’s existence in every particular country. It is well worthy noticing that ‘gift culture’ is being primarily concerned with bestowing gifts upon people in position of power, and not vice versa. For example, for businesspersons that operate in China, establishing ‘useful connections’ with government bureaucrats represents the matter of foremost concern. According to Yeung and Tung: “Gift-giving, entertainment at lavish banquets, questionable payments, overseas trips, and sponsoring and supporting the children of Chinese officials at universities abroad are common” (p. 62). In other words, what Chinese refer to as ‘gift culture’, Westerners refer to as ‘corruption’. And, the latter definition is much more intellectually honest.
We need to understand that the so-called ‘traditional values’, out of which the loosely defined concept of ‘gift culture’ originates, are not worthy even a penny. For example, the Islamic law of Sharia explicitly forbids banks to charge a percentage for lending people money. How had the owners of Islamic banks dealt with the prospect to be cast into the ‘lake of fire’, on account of their banks’ sinful functioning? They simply replaced the term ‘lending’ with the term ‘providing valuable services to a community’, while continuing to charge percentage – a so-called ‘Islamic banking’. Therefore, for as long as we live in civilized Western countries, ruled by secular law, we will continue referring to people’s affiliation with a so-called ‘gift culture’ as the foremost indication of these people’s criminal-mindedness – pure and simple. It is namely Westerners who had led humanity out of the darkness of primeval savagery towards the light of civilization and progress; therefore, it is up to urban-minded Westerners and not to some natural-born-peasants from Third World to define what is corruption and what it not.
Caldwell, J. & Schindlmayr, T. (2003). Explanations of the fertility crisis in modern societies: A search for commonalities. Population Studies 57(3), 241-263.
Hasty, Jennifer (2005). The pleasures of corruption: Desire and discipline in Ghanaian political culture. Cultural Anthropology, 20(2), 271-301.
Pollard, J. & Samers, Michael (2007). Islamic banking and finance: Postcolonial political economy and the decentring of economic geography. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, New Series 32(3), 313-330.
Yeung, I. Y. M., & Tung, R. L. (1996) Achieving business success in Confucian societies: The importance of guanxi (connections), Organizational Dynamics, Autumn, 54-65.