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Sociology & Networking

I think you need to add the more fundamental, foundational corruption of "public spaces." That is, Manuel Castells, who created the "Network Society" mode of sociological analysis and who some compare his Post-Industrial Society concepts as what Emile Durkheim did in Spirit of Capitalism for an industrial society, talks about the logic of a network, its identity, how networks exclude and simultaneously include. So not only our public spaces become brand "Disney"-like groves, the corruption and destructive logics seeps into people's identity in powerful ways. Thus, these concept can be applied to every social unit, the family, terrorism, Corporate global actors whether financial or ent., on the minute level of an individual's action and on the macro, global level regarding the massive flows of capital and images through networks. I'd recommend you read his two seminal books, The Rise of the Network Society and esp. Vol. II, The Power of Identity. Regarding corruption, a network analysis helps one understand and disentangle how multiple networks intersect in lobbying and legal decisions. These tools provide great dexterity in uncovering intersections and inter-penetrations.

Corruption Markets and Marker Systems

Observation of patterns of corruption in diverse social contexts and across a broad span of history suggests that secret and semi-formal trading networks are at the root of the corruption phenomenon. The trade in "markers," recognized quanta of benefit, is what establishes a network member's standing in an underground system of corruption. An instance of a simple market exchange is: a corrupt lawyer bribes a judge and the corrupt judge softens the sentence of the lawyer's defendant. But the judge can also accumulate markers by consistently giving preferential treatment to a particular party (individual, corporate, or political), in anticipation of the delivery of future market repayment.

An interesting recent anecdotal example of marker trading was the revelation that a leading securities analyst in New York provided a favorable rating on a company's stock in return for placement of his daughter in an exclusive Manhattan preschool. This illustrates the extraordinary diversity of markers in corruption networks and points toward a theoretical challenge in elucidating how network members value and transact their exchanges while maintaining secrecy. Improving this theoretical understanding is a key objective for disrupting networks of corruption. Traffic analysis on contacts and relationships among suspected members in a corruption network may be a fruitful avenue of inquiry.

Audio References

The below link includes the audio from a USC Free Culture talk with panelists, Jerry Del Colliano, Clinical Professor Music Industry & Recording Arts Thornton School of Music, Founder of Inside Radio. B.J. Dodge: Adjunct Professor USC School of Theatre. Faculty Coordinator and Director for California Institute of the Arts’ Community Arts Partnership Youth Theater Workshop at Plaza de la Raza in Lincoln Heights. Janet Owen – Adjunct Professor of Public Art Studies, USC School of Fine Art. Curator of Exhibitions with the newly established Studio For Social Sculpture, based in Los Angeles. Previously she was Co-Director of Raid Projects, an LA exhibition and curatorial organization, and Founding Director of the AIM international festival of time-based media. Nelson Pavlosky: Co-Founder, Free Culture – An International Student Movement.

Janet Owen is heading up a new public "Studio Scupture" project that specifically addresses how the disappearance of real public spaces allow such corruption to flourish. ([link][1])

General Public / Consumers

There are many instances where individuals are less than subtly influenced to make anticompetitive decisions while spending other people's money. Example - airline miles... While it is wise to focus on cases where corruption is "concentrated" and one or few individuals control a lot of money, by its pervasiveness in our culture and to the extent that it forms habits in thinking and decision making, it would be useful to list here instances where individuals are given such incentives. The few people setting such policies also exercise a lot of power, though the anticompetitive decisions are distributed.

  • Frequent Flyer Clubs - Airlines offer "points" or "miles" to entice people to choose them again. People can make their own decision whether and how to use such "buy-five-get-one-free" incentives, but there is a conflict of interest when third parties (employers) are paying for the tickets, while individuals are getting the incentives. Some companies have wisened to this fact and prohibit the choice of airline company based on such program memberships, but it is hard to prove a person has done an unbiased comparison of airfares.

The system encourages people to make decisions for the wrong reasons.

  • Similar case with credit card "points" programs, when the money spent is not the individual's own money but they are reimbursed by someone else.

Both of these cases must be hard to enforce because the personal interest at stake is often small and not worth the enforcement trouble to declare. (which is also a reason internet scammers getting small amounts from many people are hard to prosecute).

Are all consumer corruption cases in this category or are there ones that are qualitatively different?