Developing a public interest response to state-orchestrated corruption

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As conventionally understood, anti-corruption programs rely on legal rules to define and control the abuse of official power for private gain. This study explores the limits to law-based standards of corruption where state officials obscure bribery and the abuse of power beneath a veneer of legality. Drawing on an empirical study of two public-private partnerships (PPPs) in Vietnam, it asks whether the failure of anti-corruption laws to curb malfeasance in PPPs is attributable to insufficient enforcement, to targeting the wrong behavior, or to both of these issues. It argues that if anti-corruption laws are blind to the opportunistic manipulation of laws in PPPs, then we must consider other ways of conceptualizing and controlling corruption. This argument links the way in which corruption is conceptualized to the efficacy of policy instruments used to curb corruption in PPPs. In particular, it examines whether public interest corruption provides a framework that makes malfeasance in PPPs visible and thus offers a mechanism for holding officials accountable. This study concludes that public interest corruption broadens the analysis of corruption in PPPs from transgressions of legal boundaries to an examination of public inclusion and exclusion from decision making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-54
Number of pages30
JournalLaw and Social Inquiry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


  • corruption
  • Socialist Asia
  • Public private partnerships
  • Public interest

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