Corruption and Cheating As the Tragedy of Modern Culture
3rd Forum of the International Sociological Association
Increased political corruption and cheating in a wide diversity of practices such as sports and academic examinations are becoming two of the most important problems affecting contemporary societies. Political corruption, especially in the developing world, has reached such a colossal scale that many scholars have identified it - and not lack of economic resources per se - as the most important problem confronting the prospects of economic and social development. In the developed world corruption is also growing. In the U.S. and Europe many serving officials have been indicted on numerous counts.
Different from corruption but closely related to it, cheating represents another serious challenge. Dishonesty in taking examinations has become common in many parts of the world. Cheating, it is claimed, is anathema to sport, yet the use steroids in competitive sports is too common to be ignored.
The scholarly literature agrees in that these forms of deviance occur within the framework of particular sub-cultures that work to normalize such practices. Some forms of corruption are accepted among political circles. Studies on cheating at exams show that many students justify helping friends they are close to. In professional sports many athletes see “fair play” like an expression of amateurism.
Normative frameworks have been put in place to curb dishonesty such as the U.N. Convention Against Corruption. Severe punishment now awaits exam cheaters, and new testing techniques are used to detect doping in sports. However, beyond such disciplinary responses lies the need to acquire a deeper understanding of the general cultural forces driving these harmful trends. It is my contention that the work of George Simmel on the Tragedy of Culture, which duels on the massive growth of objective cultural products, and their overwhelming impact over the subjective culture of individuals, can shed light upon the problem at stake.
Augusto S. De Venanzi (2016).
Corruption and Cheating As the Tragedy of Modern Culture. Presented at 3rd Forum of the International Sociological Association, Vienna, Austria.