From Informality to Corruption (1817-2018):
Serbia and Croatia in Comparison
During the last years, scholars have become increasingly pessimistic about anti-corruption efforts. It has become clear that in many cases, the mechanical introduction of institutions and laws has not appeared to diminish corruption. Scholars increasingly understand that corruption is difficult to control unless a society has both the will and the possibilities to curb corrupt institutions and practices. In addition, there is a growing understanding that anti-corruption should take into account local logic and values rather than measure a society by purely external standards, even as many societies have committed themselves to creating formalized bureaucracies (as part of their state building process) that are supposed to function according to universal written rules. The perspective of this new system regards older particularistic practices as corruption. In many cases, the formal system has been implemented only partially, a fact that justifies asking the question why informality (though often criticized as corruption) has been able to survive until the very present. This project examines the history of corruption in two neighboring territories in Southeastern Europe by means of a comparative longitudinal perspective spanning 200 years; a former Ottoman territory (Serbia) and a former Habsburg territory (Croatia). The project will test two hypotheses. 1) During the last two decades, rules concerning the behavior of state officials have solidified. But at the same time, historical ruptures have limited the effectiveness of this formalization process. 2) At the beginning of the nineteenth century, both regions followed different patterns concerning corruption. The Croat territory within the Habsburg Monarchy featured more formalized state activity than the Serbian territories of the late Ottoman Empire, where public mistrust and informality reinforced each other. Convergence started with the Serbian state building process and intensified during the twentieth century, when Serbia and Croatia coexisted in a common Yugoslav state and shared similar experiences. For purposes of manageability and intellectual clarity, we limit our research to corruption scandals, i.e. to cases where the limit between correct and incorrect interactions became a subject of public negotiation. We work together as an interdisciplinary team. We examine the period from the early nineteenth century up to 1989 in two historical sub-projects, and the period from 1990-2018 within the framework of business administration, since that approach best fits the drastically enlarged role of business actors in post-socialism. A fourth sub-project uses linguistics to analyze long-term changes within the semantic field of informality/corruption, attempting to show how the public sphere(s) in Serbia and Croatia has shaped its understanding of the phenomenon under different regimes.
Jovana Jovic – 28.04.2020 10:02