Philosophical connections between the classical and the modern notion of corruption. From the Enlightenment to post-modernity

Author:Michel Dion
Position:Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Canada
Pages:82-100
SUMMARY

Purpose The purpose of this paper is to circumscribe the various philosophical connections between the classical and the modern notion of corruption from Enlightenment to post-modernity. Design/methodology/approach The paper analyzed to what extent the classical notion of corruption (Plato, Aristotle and Cicero) still influenced the way philosophers perceived the phenomenon of corruption during the... (see full summary)

 
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Philosophical connections
between the classical and the
modern notion of corruption
From the Enlightenment to post-modernity
Michel Dion
Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Canada
Abstract
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to circumscribe the various philosophical connections between the
classical and the modern notion of corruption from Enlightenment to post-modernity.
Design/methodology/approach The paper analyzed to what extent the classical notion of corruption
(Plato, Aristotle and Cicero) still inuenced the way philosophers perceived the phenomenon of corruption
during the Enlightenment (1625-1832), the transition period (1833-1900) and the post-modernity (1901
onward). Taking those historical periods as reference points, the author will see how literature about
historical, social and political conditioning factors of corruption could convey the presence/absence of the
classical or the modern notion of corruption.
Findings The paper nds that the classical notion of corruption implies the degeneration of human
relationships (Plato and Hegel), the degeneration of the body-and-mind unity (Aristotle, Pascal and Thomas
Mann) or the degeneration of collective morality (Cicero, Locke, Rousseau, Hume and Kant). The modern
notion of corruption as bribery was mainly introduced by Adam Smith. Nietzsche (and Musil) looked at
corruption as degeneration of the will-to-power. The classical notion of corruption put the emphasis on the
effects rather than on the cause itself (effects-based thinking). The modern notion of corruption as bribery
insists on the cause rather than on the effects (cause-based thinking).
Research limitations/implications In this paper, the author has taken into account the main
representatives of the three historical periods. Future research could also analyze the works of other
philosophers and novelists to see to what extent their philosophical and literary works are unveiling the
classical or the modern notion of corruption.
Originality/value The paper presents a philosophical and historical perspective about corruption. It
sheds light on the way philosophers (and sometimes novelists) deal with the issue of corruption, whether it is
from an effects-based or from a cause-based perspective.
Keywords Corruption, Nietzsche, Enlightenment, Post-modernity
Paper type Conceptual paper
Introduction
Philosopher Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) and sociologist Alain Touraine have rightly
deciphered the meaning of the Enlightenment. According to Arendt (1976,p.73),the
whole process of secularization (nineteenth century) had lost the two-fold essence of the
Enlightenment: its revolutionary appeal and the basic condence in a self-reliant
humanity. Arendt (1998, pp. 228-229, p. 305) was convinced that only the modern age
dened human being primarily as homo faber rather than animal rationale. The modern
age has instrumentalized the world itself: human being becomes a pure toolmaker. What
was crucial is to produce things (Arendt, 1998, pp. 306-307). Human knowledge is thus
intrinsically linked to the way people produce things. Arendt (1998, p. 254) believed that
work alienation is the basic characteristic of the modern age. The most important virtues
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JFC
24,1
82
Journalof Financial Crime
Vol.24 No. 1, 2017
pp.82-100
©Emerald Publishing Limited
1359-0790
DOI 10.1108/JFC-01-2016-0009
of modern science were success, industry and truthfulness (Arendt, 1998, p. 278). Arendt
(1998, pp. 293-294) interpreted modern philosophy as a theory of cognition and
psychology that was rooted in Descartes’ method of introspection. Arendt said that
Pascal, Kierkegaard and even Nietzsche actually used such method to question reality.
The nal outcome was that modern philosophers withdraw into themselves, as the
perishable world and the after-life world were deceptive and thus cannot mirror reality
as it is (Arendt, 1998, p. 320). According to Touraine (1992, pp. 14-16, p. 74, p. 106), the
Enlightenment has progressively isolated the objective (technical/scientic/efcient)
world (the ultimate realm of reason, in accordance with the laws of nature) from the
world of subjectivity/personal freedom (the Subject). The Enlightenment has prioritized
Reason (rationalization processes) to the detriment of the Subject (subjectivation
processes). As Touraine (1992) said, Reason (science) and Subject (conscience,
imagination, desires and sentiments) are rather interdependent (Touraine, 1992, p. 241,
pp. 425-429). Touraine (1992, pp. 242-244) dened the Subject as the individual will to act
as agent and to be socially recognized as agent. Thus, the Subject cannot be isolated from
its social situation. The Subject is a social agent (Touraine, 1992, p. 272, pp. 332-335,
p. 415). Touraine (1992, p. 317) even dened the Subject as a social movement against
dehumanization processes and against any kind of totalitarian spirit. Subjectivation is
thus the on-going process to transform an individual into a Subject. The Enlightenment
has historically given birth to a deep loss of meaning, because of the tragic effects of
instrumental reason, claimed Touraine (1992, p. 114). Touraine (1992, p. 415) argued that
power structures have transformed the instrumental reason into extremely powerful and
controlling social systems (Touraine, 1992, p. 208, p. 223). The Enlightenment makes us
more aware of the need to safeguard freedom, when confronted to power structures.
Reason is not the nal word about human nature. We do not have to get rid of sentiments
and beliefs. Indeed, they make an integral part of the Subject (Touraine, 1992,
pp. 252-255, p. 266, p. 420). Touraine (1992, p. 346, pp. 352-353, pp. 363-364) believed that
there cannot be a personal Subject (individual freedom and responsibility for the future:
Subject as personal freedom) without a collective Subject (community-based memory:
Subject as cultural belongingness).
It is not clear at all when the Enlightenment actually ends, both from a philosophical
viewpoint and an historical perspective. In philosophy, the Enlightenment could have begun
with Hobbes’ Leviathan (1651) and ended with Hegel’s death (1831). In literature, its origin
could be Corneille’s Mélite (1629), and the nal end of the Enlightenment could coincide with
Goethe’s death (1832). Nietzsche is one of the great precursors of post-modernity. The real
beginning of post-modernity could be Nietzsche’s Human, Too Human (1878). Nietzsche
(1844-1900) could rather be considered as the greatest representative of the transition period
between the Enlightenment and post-modernity. Arendt (1998,p.6,2013, pp. 41-54) said that
the modern age ends at the beginning of the twentieth century. So, I will take the following
historical periods as reference points: the Enlightenment (1625-1832), the transition period
between the Enlightenment and post-modernity (1833-1900) and the post-modernity
(1901-present).
In this paper, I will analyze the way philosophers dealt with the issue of corruption in
those three basic historical periods. In doing so, we will see to what extent the classical
notion of corruption (Plato, Aristotle and Cicero) still inuenced the way philosophers
perceived the phenomenon of corruption during the Enlightenment and the transition
period. Post-modernist philosophers are not concerned with the issue of corruption.
However, some novelists during the period of post-modernity actually addressed the
phenomenon of corruption, either in using a classical notion (Thomas Mann) or in
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