Sociology of corruption – the dilemmas of captive minds

Thanks to Fug’s Blog I found a reference to the thought provoking paper’s abstract that I am posting below. The idea of a ‘captive mind’ is precisely what I have been mulling about. Thanks to this paper, I am likely to give a better shape to my raw, unformed ideas –

Sociology of Corruption and ‘Corruption of Sociology’: Evaluating the Contributions of Syed Hussein Alatas

Current Sociology, Vol. 54, No. 1, 25-39 (2006)

Habibul Haque Khondker
National University of Singapore

This article examines corruption as a social problem and a phenomenon that illustrates certain problems in agenda-setting in sociology. Understanding such questions as why corruption remains largely outside the purview of sociology, and how sociological agendas are set can be found in the works of Syed Hussein Alatas, who wrote about corruption as far back as the 1950s. Sociology of corruption as a subfield failed to take off despite the ubiquity of this phenomenon. In recent years, new books have been published, including an updated version of Professor Alatas’s work. Studies of corruption remain a prerogative of the political scientists and public policy experts. Economists see corruption as a market-distorting externality and treat it as a peripheral subject. Gunnar Myrdal, who was an exception, in his Asian Drama, identified corruption as a serious bottleneck for Asian development. The problem persists 40 years on from Myrdal’s analysis. In many countries in the developing world, corruption has become part of the fabric of society. Yet, sociological theorization and empirical studies are lacking. This article examines corruption both as a social problem and an indicator of the ‘corruption of sociology’, drawing on the writings of Alatas, especially his notion of ‘captive mind’ or the absence of intellectual autonomy on the part of the Third World sociologists.



Filed under corruption, Research, sociology

4 responses to “Sociology of corruption – the dilemmas of captive minds

  1. Sounds like something worthwhile to read. I don’t know if I agree with the statement that economists’ treat corruption as a “peripheral subject.”

    To my understanding, economists have produced large quantities of research on corruption (commissioned by the IMF and WB); initially at least, the study of corruption was definitely more popular in economics than in political science.

    Today however, political scientists are neck-in-neck with the economists, and arguably ahead. If any one discipline treats corruption peripherally, then Sociology is it.

  2. Well said. I think we need to make a distinction between IFI-led research and independent research. The former emanates for the purposes of an organisation while the latter is meant to promote investigation into various branches of knowledge.

    The fundamental issue in this paper relates to how we ‘view’ corruption and how is it handled. It is a symptomatic of many other factors…

    best regards, Raza


    I want to say that a lot of works have gone into corruption as a social problem. but i think the bulk of the work is in the court of i think we should start going back to the basis which is the family. the structure and function of the family in our contemporary society is nothing to write home about. the real values of the society need to be taught.this is definitely a long term process of reducing corruption both in developed and developing societies.

  4. the great thing about corruptocratic developmentia is the way someone can string cliche after cliche in a row and positively thrive.

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