Corruption is generally described as increasing the costs of doing business, distorting government policies, as well as creating inequalities in society as it may tilt policies toward some group at the expense of others. Concepts like clientelism, extortion, bribery and embezzlement are frequently used when discussing the phenomenon. These concepts are, nevertheless, complicated and intertwined.
This thesis discusses the complexities involved in attempting to define and classify the phenomenon of corruption at a country-specific level. What is regarded as corruption among theorists may not necessarily correspond to societal understandings of the phenomenon. I therefore analyze the Argentinean perception of corruption in light of major contributions in corruption theory.
Since the colonial days, corruption and smuggling has been part of the everyday life in Argentina. However, many call attention to the 1990s and the extensive liberalization reforms under the infamous rule of Carlos Menem when discussing corruption in the country. Recent public opinion polls indicate that the perception of the level of corruption in Argentina is very high, and political parties and politicians are among those with lowest credibility.
The media plays a substantial part in influencing and forming people s opinion and understanding of a concept like corruption. Given that most state institutions in Argentina do not enjoy much legitimacy among citizens, the media hold a vital role in uncovering corruption and denouncing state atrocities.
The main focus of this study is thus on how corruption is understood in Argentinean society, in particular in terms of how the Argentinean media understands, reports, and portrays corruption in the country. Based on corruption perception indexes and public opinion polls, an analysis of to what extent corruption is understood to be a problem in Argentina is carried out. The coverage of corruption in the news media is analyzed through interviews with Argentinean journalists, as well as an examination of how corruption is portrayed in the leading daily newspaper in the country.
Some of the particularities of corruption in Argentina are thus demonstrated by this study. It is found that established theory is useful for an understanding of some aspects of corruption in the country, although such contributions need to be supplemented by local-level knowledge and understanding of issues. It is important that anti-corruption strategies take more consideration of national distinctiveness when designing tools for combating corruption, and the strategies can thus not be developed solely on the basis of existing theory.