James C. Scott (1972) argues that corruption, like violence, must be understood as a regular, repetitive, integral part of the operation of most political systems

At a previous post, at which I outline research by James C. Scott, I refer to a study entitled Comparative Political Corruption (1972).

James C. Scott is an anthropologist and political scientist.

A description at Google Scholar (in Scott’s own words) of the above-noted study reads:

The perspective of this book is that corruption, like violence, must be understood as a regular, repetitive, integral part of the operation of most political systems. In practice, this simply means that an analysis of who in a society gets what, when, where, and how that relies exclusively upon an examination of those political acts open to public view would seldom provide an accurate picture of political reality. Recurring acts of violence and corruption are thus more successfully analyzed as normal channels of political activity than as cases of deviant pathology requiring incarceration and/or moral instruction for the perpetrator (s). Just as social banditry and piracy must be viewed as integral parts of many agrarian and maritime economies, so, for example, must vote-buying and “rake-offs” be seen as an integral part of United States urban politics at the turn of the twentieth century. Far from being pathological, patterns of corruption and violence may actually represent channels of political demands without which formal societal arrangements could scarcely survive.

In keeping with this perspective, I have consistently tried to show how patterns of access and exclusion in the formal political apparatus help determine which groups will most likely resort to corruption or violence.

Since corruption is a violation of certain rules, the amount and nature of corruption is, in part, determined by those rules. If the rules permit large campaign contributions, they often simply institutionalize a transaction between wealth and power that occurs illegally under a more restrictive set of rules. Given the importance of the existing set of rules to any examination of corruption, I have …

The online quote trails off at that point.

British Columbia gang culture

What the author says is sweeping but thought-provoking.

I thought about Scott’s above-noted comments when I recently came across two CBC articles (to which I’ve subsequently added an additional one, below) about gangs in British Columbia.

An Aug. 26, 2019 CBC article is entitled: “The unusual suspects: How B.C.’s middle-class gangs are unlike any other in North America: Many gangsters driven by desire to belong, to be protected or to emulate gang lifestyle, say police, experts.”

An excerpt reads:

The task force also shed light on the complex reasons why kids are joining gangs.

They might be experiencing trauma or domestic violence, substance abuse at home, lack of parental supervision or have delinquent peers or siblings. Or they might be getting bullied at school and turn to a gang for protection, or just to feel like they belong somewhere. And some might simply be lured by the promise of profit and luxury.

“What we’re seeing is surprising to us and unexpected,” says Joanna Angelidis, director of learning services for the Delta School District.

“It seems to be that it’s young people who you wouldn’t necessarily expect would become involved in gang life,” she added.

“So, what we’re thinking is that it’s young people who are maybe looking for a feeling of connection or inclusion and they’re looking for that in ways that are clearly unhealthy or dangerous.”

An Aug. 27, 2019 CBC article is entitled: “‘There’s no rock bottom anymore’: B.C.’s evolving gang landscape causing spike in violence.”

An excerpt reads:

Officials say many of the middle-class young men stepping off school and career paths to pursue criminal businesses see it as a legitimate career opportunity.

An Aug. 28, 2019 CBC article is entitled: “Women and girls increasingly entrenched in drug trade, gang violence in B.C.”‘They want the money. They want the image. They want all that,’ says detective.”

An excerpt reads:

The gang landscape in B.C. is so unusual that when Parhar and Avelar travel to the U.S. or other parts of Canada, officers are often dumbfounded by their descriptions of gangsters’ girlfriends. The women may be nurses or lawyers and look like they belong in The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, the detectives say.

Gangster genres

Previous posts about gangs (and the related topic of violence and literature) include:

Updates: Drug Wars (2013) and the gangster genre

Starting in 1920s, gangster movies underlined capabilities of talking pictures

Jonathan Shay speaks of moral injury in Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character (1994)

Gangster history

Warfare including psychological operations, propaganda, and hybrid warfare (as subset of warfare or its central feature) entails organized violence aligned with pursuit of political goals.

Gangster history is a subset of military history.

Click here for previous posts about gangs >

Click here for previous posts about military history >

Land use and history of organized violence

The pursuit of political goals, referred to above, typically involves land use.

I began reading about the history of land use in 2011. A selection of topics that interest me include:

    • Violence-driven land acquisitions by colonial settler societies in North America and elsewhere, accompanied by destruction of Indigenous lives, communities, and cultures;
    • Violence-driven land acquisitions by Nazi Germany (in which the anticipated starvation of millions of inhabitants of vast, agriculturally productive regions outside of Germany was a central land use planning strategy) and Stalinist Russia during the Second World War; and
    • History of land use – a history of a war wherein the human species has waged a war against itself – as it relates climate change.

That is to say, we are a part of nature; that being the case, a war against nature, of the kind that humankind has waged (knowingly or unknowingly) since the dawn of agriculture, is a war against itself.

In an upcoming post, I will highlight land use as a cause – and a source of potential attenuation – of the ongoing climate crisis.

Lawfare article describes what constitutes an impeachable offence in the U.S.

With regard to the intersection of corruption and the law, an Oct. 3, 2019 Lawfare article is entitled: “The Constitution Says ‘Bribery’ Is Impeachable. What Does That Mean?”

The article places into a suitable context all else that appears at the current post. An excerpt reads:

Some of the earliest bribery statutes enacted by the American states tell the same story. For example, as Teachout describes, “A 1797 Delaware list of ‘indictable crimes’ described bribery broadly, as ‘an offense against public justice,’ constituted by undue reward for one in the administration of public justice, in an attempt ‘to influence him against the known rules of law, honesty, or integrity, or [constituted by] giving or taking a reward for offices of a public nature. He who accepts and he who offers the bribe are both liable to punishment.’” As Tribe and Matz explain, consistent with these definitions, in identifying bribery as a specific ground for impeachment the Founders were concerned primarily with “[t]he corrupt exercise of power in exchange for a personal benefit.”

The understanding of bribery at the Founding maps perfectly onto Trump’s conduct in his call with Zelensky. As noted above, Trump made clear to Zelensky that he was asking him for a “favor”—not a favor to benefit the United States as a whole or the public interest, but a favor that would accrue to the personal benefit of Trump by harming his political rival. Trump’s request that Zelensky work with his private attorney, Rudy Giuliani, underscores that Trump was seeking a private benefit. And Trump was not seeking this “undue reward” (to quote “Russell on Crimes” and the Delaware statute) as a mere aside unrelated to the president’s official role. Rather, he did so in the course of an official diplomatic conversation with a head-of-state.

The transcript makes clear that Trump tied together the request for a personal favor with the delivery of military aid. But even if he had not made such a direct connection, this sort of corrupt use of public office to obtain a private benefit fits squarely within the definition of bribery when the Constitution was written.

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