IDS Bulletin Vol. 30 Nos. 4

Constraints on Civil Society’s Capacity to Curb Corruption

Published on 1 October 1999

Summaries This article suggests reasons why it is particularly difficult for civil society to organise effectively to curb forms of corruption which disproportionately afflict the poor. We take issue with currently fashionable views on the state’s ability to ‘foster’ the emergence of civil?society organisations which effectively articulate the interests of socially excluded people. The Indian case demonstrates the potential for state?fostering to produce precisely the kinds of ‘compromised’ civil?society organisations which inhibit the emergence of the most effective form of anti?corruption movement: one based upon the premise that citizens have a right to audit government finances in minute detail. Indeed, the organisation in India that has pioneered this radical means for increasing accountability to the poor consciously distances itself from state?sponsored efforts to influence the development of civil society. In Latin America — whence most of the evidence for the optimistic view of state?fostered civil society has been drawn — efforts to promote popular auditing (as opposed to participatory planning) are conspicuous by their absence. This raises suspicions that state?fostering of civil society, whatever its merits, comes at a heavy price: the proliferation of associations unwilling to migrate from ‘safe’ forms of participation to those which involve confronting powerful elites and challenging the state’s prerogative of auditing its own financial conduct. Such groups appear disinclined to demand and obtain sensitive government records, let alone organise ordinary people to analyse such information to determine where funds allocated for their benefit have actually gone.

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Jenkins, R. and Goetz, A.,?M. (1999) Constraints on Civil Society's Capacity to Curb Corruption . IDS Bulletin 30(4): 39-49

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published by
Institute of Development Studies


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