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Palgrave Macmillan

An Intellectual History of Political Corruption

ISBN 9780230308886
Publication Date January 2014
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan
Series Political Corruption and Governance

Few concepts have witnessed a more dramatic resurgence of interest in recent year than corruption. It is, however, a concept that dates back to antiquity with this recent popularity representing the latest iteration in a long history of contestation over corruption. In one of the first surveys of the variable contours of meaning invested in the term, from antiquity through to the end of the eighteenth century, this book explores the significant role corruption has played in political discourse through the centuries. It finds that corruption was not always a concept particular to the abuse of public office, but was often applied to more nebulous fears of moral, spiritual and physical degeneration. This book marshals both historical and conceptual analysis to demonstrate a conceptual oscillation between restrictive 'public office' and expansive 'degenerative' connotations of corruption that persisted until the second half of the eighteenth century when the public office conception overtook and finally superseded the degenerative one. The result is a survey that is fundamental to the understanding of modern ideas of corruption and represents an invaluable tool to both students and scholars of the subject.

Bruce Buchan is a Political Theorist whose research traces the historical articulation and contemporary implications of key concepts. He is currently working on projects funded by the Australia Research Council on the intellectual history of asymmetric warfare, and on ideas of sound, noise and civility in the Enlightenment period

Lisa Hill is Professor of Politics, School of History and Politics, University of Adelaide, Australia

1. Conceptions of Political Corruption in Antiquity
2. Patronage, Politics and Perishability in Early Medieval Political Thought
3. From Baratteria to Broglio: The Perils of Public Office in Medieval and Renaissance Political Thought 
4. Affection, Interest and Office in Early Modernity
5. Ideological Change in Eighteenth Century Britain
6. The Historical Vicissitudes of Corruption



"Bruce Buchan and Lisa Hill's An Intellectual History of Political Corruption marks an important step in the contextualization of the problem of corruption in public affairs as a recurrent and pronounced issue over centuries of Western thought. The project undertaken by the authors is innovative not only for its solid historical scholarship, but also for its relevance to contemporary historical concerns. They illustrate brilliantly why the study of the history of ideas remains a necessary component of any full understanding of contemporary politics."
Cary J. Nederman, Department of Political Science,Texas A&M University, USA
"Buchan and Hill provide a compelling account of the changing understanding of political corruption from the ancient world until the end of the 18th century. It addresses a major gap in the literature on corruption that tends to be both resolutely ahistorical and centred on liberal democratic states; and it does so with great clarity and considerable erudition. It should help us to develop a deeper understanding of what we now take to be central to political corruption, and to seeing how and why we have come to see things in this way."
Mark Philp, Oriel College, University of Oxford, UK
"This is an excellent introduction to the evolution of a contested concept that has huge contemporary resonance. Buchan and Hill have written a very accessible and engaging book which takes in a huge sweep of history, from classical times to the end of the eighteenth century, and they deserve a wide readership."
Mark Knights, Department of History, Universtiy of Warwick, UK
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