Soreide, Tina, and Aled Williams, eds. Corruption, Grabbing and Development: Real World Challenges. Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2014. xvi + 216 pages. Paperback, $39.95.
Tina Soreide and Aled Williams bring both academic depth and real world experience to this volume. Law and economics are Soreide's specialties. Political science, with policy research and resource management experience, is Williams' strength. Issues of corruption and development tie together their work with that of the contributors to the volume. Geography and cultural perspectives come into play. The editors perform outstandingly in introducing the collection, organizing the articles usefully, and orienting the reader to the cohesive whole. In fact, the quality of the Introduction is exceptional, a must-read, for content and style.
The editors begin their Introduction with a definition of grabbing: "Grabbing is when someone seizes something that he or she is not entitled to, or takes more than what is his or hers formally, informally or tacitly allocated share"(p. 1). These may be legal acts "selfishly securing benefits at the expense of others"(p. 3), and perceived as a violation of social norms. Corruption, however, is legally defined and can be prosecuted judicially. What is meant in this volume by "development" can be inferred from the over-all contents: equitable extraction, distribution involving opportunity and a good life for all, educational outcomes, health care, fair regulation (rule of law, policing, qualified and independent judiciary), and infrastructural works providing meaningful public services.
In the Introduction, Soreide and Williams note that the grabbing described in the National Geographic (January 2007) cover story "Amazon--Battle to Stop the Land Grab" was, in a sense, accepted. However, they go on to demonstrate that grabbing reduces trust and perverts allocation mechanisms. Hence, tolerance or pervasiveness of grabbing, although it might enrich developers, in fact obstructs development. To demonstrate this fact, the book contains diverse articles that embrace data, statistical analyses, and econometrics. Organization of the articles divides the material into four sections: (1) Structure and characteristics of a system that are conducive to grabbing,(2) Grabbing behaviors within a system,(3) Interference or prevention of internal system function due to grabbing, and (4) Interactions with other systems conducive to grabbing. These...