Multi-Level Perspectives on Anti-Corruption: A Systematic Literature Review

This systematic literature review investigates the extent to which recent anti-corruption literature goes beyond the established paradigms (i.e., principal-agent perspective, macro-level, structural, and legal centralistic approaches) to focus on society’s informal norms, everyday micro-level power relations and non-monetary currencies (e.g. respect, prestige, social status and trust). By reconceptualising the various meanings and morality of informal,
non-legal practices and transactions in the frame of the ’multi-level orders of corruption’ perspective, the paper also assesses the extent to which the current canon focuses on the complex articulation and interdependencies between (1) global, transnational anti-corruption laws, initiatives, discourses, and institutions, (2) national/central level initiatives, policies, and laws, and (3) local, micro-level social norms and practices. Based on one-hundred and three systematically gathered peer-reviewed journal articles published between 2015 and 2020, we found that most studies conducted within this period focus on anti-corruption at the national level and mostly employ analytical and quantitative methods. However, the local level received scant attention, and qualitative methods were employed in a few studies. Also, even though a significant number of studies focus on anti-corruption at multiple levels, these are mostly either the global-national level or national-local level. None of the articles gathered for this review studies anti-corruption in a complete multi-level approach that explores the global-national-local level. Lastly, we found that most of the studies across the levels are shaped by the principal-agent perspective and indicate a predominance of the perspective within anti-corruption policy and practice across the world. Consequently, irrespective of the entity of focus (i.e., country or institution), method (quantitative, qualitative, analytical or experimental) or level of analysis (i.e., global, national, or local or multi-level), most of the studies attribute the ineffectiveness of anti-corruption interventions to the inability of ”principals” to be principled, and hence call for increased sanctioning, supervision, monitoring and political commitment towards combatting corruption. Thus, there is the need for more qualitative anti-corruption studies at the local level and alternative theoretical perspectives that go beyond the aforementioned established paradigms.