Political Corruption (L2046)

30 credits, Level 6

Spring teaching

"Corruption", in the words of the World Bank "is the single greatest obstacle to global economic and social development. It distorts the rule of law and weakens the institutional foundation on which economic growth depends". For this, and other reasons, corruption now occupies a central place as an issue of public concern across the democratic world.

Yet, the problem of corruption in all its different guises is not a new one. For as long as humans have conferred authority on rulers, there has always been the threat that those rulers will use that authority for personal – rather than public – advantage. Despite the longstanding and intimate connection between politics and corruption, analysis of the "dark side" remains relatively under-studied.

The objective of this module is to shed some light on this "dark side" by developing analytical and theoretical tools that will allow us to analyse corruption across both time and space. We will begin by analysing exactly what we understand by 'corrupt' behaviour and how this appears to differ (often quite starkly) across national boundaries:

  • Do humans appear to be naturally corrupt? If so, does this matter?
  • Is corrupt behaviour absolute and universal or does it depend on location and context?
    Can corruption sometimes even be a good thing?

Armed with the analytical tools aimed at unpacking the complex phenomenon of political corruption, we will examine specific examples of corruption across the developed world, ranging from systematic abuses of power by parties and politicians to small-scale, almost trivial, petty misdemeanours. This analysis then provides a foundation for examining what reforms might contribute to lessening instances of political corruption in the western world.


33%: Lecture
67%: Seminar


100%: Written assessment (Dissertation)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 300 hours of work. This breaks down into about 33 hours of contact time and about 267 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2024/25. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to feedback, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let you know of any material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: