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Can elite corruption be a legitimate Machiavellian tool in an unruly world? The case of post-conflict Cambodia

Chapter in book
Authors Robin Biddulph
Published in Corruption in the Aftermath of War. Edited by Jonas Lindberg & Camilla Orjuela
Pages 200
ISBN 9781138100022
Publisher Routledge
Place of publication Abingdon
Publication year 2015
Published at Department of Economy and Society, Unit for Human Geography
Pages 200
Language en
Keywords corruption; legitimacy; post-conflict; Cambodia;
Subject categories Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies), Social and Economic Geography


Elite corruption may have a significant role in ending conflicts and shaping post-conflict development. This article enquires into the legitimacy accorded to such corruption. It reviews literature on post-conflict Cambodia, seeking evidence that academic commentaries, public opinion or elites themselves regard elite corruption as a legitimate Machiavellian tool for achieving other ends. Corruption has been an element of the style of government adopted by the dominant party in Cambodia, shaping both the achievement of peace and the uneven economic development that followed. Academic commentaries provide some implicit and explicit legitimation of corruption as a means to secure peace and to resist neoliberal policy settings by affording government discretionary resources and power. Meanwhile, public dissatisfaction with elite corruption appears to the most likely source of renewed violent conflict in Cambodia. How elite actors rationalise and legitimise corrupt behaviour remains poorly understood, and is deserving of more attention.

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