Exploring the nexus between trust, corruption and anti-corruption policies in post-communist Romania
You can read more about this research here: https://ziarulargesul.ro/municipiul-pitesti-obiect-de-studiu-la-o-universitate-britanica/
THE RESEARCH PUZZLE: It is striking that a great majority of Europeans believe corruption is widespread in their countries, yet few have experienced it. In the least corrupt EU states of Denmark, Finland and Sweden, 20-44% of people thought corruption was widespread but less than 1% indicated they paid or were expected to pay a bribe. The corresponding figures for Romania were 93% and 25%. This paradoxically high difference between belief and experience shows that people’s own meanings of corruption have to be better understood. It begs not only methodological questions of validity and theoretical questions on what exactly people mean by corruption, but it draws attention to broader questions of trust and distrust. While quantitative measures of trust/corruption have become standard survey questions, I argue it is timely for in-depth qualitative examinations – – currently uncommon – – that focus on peoples’ meanings, beliefs and practices. I propose a longitudinal-qualitative study, uniquely enabled by my previous work in 2007/08 in order to unpack this puzzle.
AIMS: To identify the mechanisms ––i.e. discourses, norms, beliefs, social and institutional practices––that link concepts of trust, practices of corruption, and anti-corruption policies in Romania; and to reflect on the social and temporal dynamics of these mechanisms.
WHY ROMANIA? Since 2012 a high-level anticorruption drive has taken place in Romania; over 2,000 high-ranking public executives were convicted, including one prime-minister, 21 MPs and 30 judges. Weakened by governmental/parliamentary acts since 2017, large street protests and the results of the May 2019 referendum have demanded its continuation. These developments posit Romania as a timely and interesting social laboratory to analyse the trust/corruption nexus.
I am delighted to receive a RSA membership grant (MeRSA) for a longitudinal qualitative research on the nexus between trust and corruption. I am thrilled that this award enables me to revisit and re-interview my prior participants in the city of Pitești, Romania, and see how and why their opinions have changed. Romania constitutes a timely and interesting social laboratory given the recent high-profile anti-corruption measures, large anti-corruption street demonstrations, increasing institutional transparency, and yet practices of bribery and favoritism stubbornly persist.