Corruption and Anti-Corruption in Britain

We may know it when we see it, but corruption is not a fixed concept. Mark Knights explains how 300 years of scandal have forged perceptions of what is – and what is not – corrupt. 

Yet another usage that has largely disappeared today is the notion, derived from the writings of classical antiquity, that the form or type of government could decay: monarchy corrupted into tyranny, aristocracy into oligarchy, democracy into anarchy. A variant of this way of thinking suggested that all forms of government were in a cycle of corruption: from a starting point of purity, governments became successively more corrupt until a violent purge restored them. Similarly, some talked about the corruption of the moral character of the nation. This version of corruption could also include a critique of sexual immorality, in which corruption was often depicted as female. Taking their cue from the Italian political theorist Machiavelli, many British writers of the 17th century identified corruption as a decay of national virtue, manliness and patriotism. 

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