Decisions Made in the Frame - Rational Choice, Institutional Norms and Public Ethos Against Corruption in Mauritius

University essay from Malmö universitet/Kultur och samhälle

Abstract: The purpose of this thesis is to increase our knowledge about corruption issues. It examines the connection between the institutional frame and the individual’s choice made in his institutional role. The study is based on the theories of rational choice institutionalism and public ethos and the empirical data is analyzed from a social constructivist perspective. The addressed research questions are: - How is the institutional frame within the Mauritian public sphere being created, with special focus on shaping the norms saying that corruption is not accepted? - Does the institutional frame, and specifically the public ethos as a norm, influence the individual’s rational choice when deciding not to act corruptly? The empirical material has been collected in Mauritius, and the study uses the Mauritian local government as the example for the institution. According to the theory of rational choice institutionalism, public servants make rational choices, within the frames of the institution. Institutions are to be seen as a wider concept, where both the formal and informal institutions are included, such as norms, institutionalized actions and processes. The public ethos, a norm specifically connected to the democratic, public areas of the society, states that the public servant’s institutional role is different from a private person’s role. According to the theory about the social construction of the reality, the individual’s perception and understanding of his surroundings, the image of his reality, is shaped by the institutional frame and this frame delimits the options to choose among. The analysis is made with the help of a model which illustrates the layers of the institution, and the individual in the institutional frame, which thereby affects his rational calculations. The model is also used to illustrate the result of the analysis, by showing the factors that influence the norm-shaping process. The analysis and the conclusions of the study indicate that the creation of the institutional frame is strongly influenced from the society with an anti-corruption agenda, in form of legislation and government agencies, which have a resilient effect on the norm-shaping. Further, the presence of the public ethos norm is shown as an element of the institutional frame. The public servant, when making a rational calculation to decide to act or not to act corruptly, is situated within this institutional frame. The conclusion of the thesis indicates that the individual’s rational choice is strongly affected by the institutional frame, showing that the public servant does take in consideration the public ethos norms in his institutional role. Even though economic reasons influence how the public servant decides to act, those are reinforced by the institutional norms.

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