[Call for papers] Favors, influence and corruption: culture and politics in modern and contemporary times (19th-20th centuries)

Two conferences will take place within the framework of a Franco-German research program dedicated to the “Political Corruption: Practices of favor and public debates in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries”. This program, supported by the ANR (National Agency of Research) and DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft), has two coordinators: Jens Ivo Engels (Darmstadt University of Technology) and Frédéric Monier (University of Avignon), in partnership with Natalie Petiteau (University of Avignon), Andreas Fahrmeir (Goethe University of Frankfurt) and Olivier Dard (University of Metz).

Besides the organizers, Giorgio Blundo (EHESS), Pierre Lascoumes (CNRS) and Christophe Prochasson (EHESS) belong to the scientific committee.

These two conferences are planned in France, at the University of Metz (September 2012) and the University of Avignon (May 2013). A third meeting will present the synthesis of the whole work. It will take place in Germany, at the University of Frankfurt, in October 2013.

These conferences will pursue and extend the discussions started at previous meetings, in Darmstadt (March 2009, Legitimation, Integration, Korruption: Patronage in früher Neuzeit und Moderne, led by RG Asch, B. Emich and JI. Engels) and Avignon (May 2010, Les Européens et le pouvoir politique, led by N. Petiteau and F. Monier).

Both conferences, in Metz (2012) and Avignon (2013), are organized with support from the Norbert Elias research center (UMR 8562), the Lorraine University Regional Center of History (CRULH), the history seminar at the University of Darmstadt, among others.


Over the past twenty years, discussions on political corruption have taken on considerable importance. In many countries, as well as within international organizations, these debates have led to the creation of new standards, designed to eradicate corruption in the name of transparency (for France, see Monier, 2011). By contrast, the historical study of the phenomenon is still in its infancy, especially as regards comparative research (Engels, 2006 and 2008).

This comparative project aims to show how the phenomena of corruption have emerged in their current forms, in Europe between the early nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century. It will take a close look at the deep, longer-term changes which affected patterns of political corrution, from the 1970s onwards, and will attempt to take on board insights derived from the study of other cultural areas – particularly North America -.

Breaking with the Old Regime system marked by aristocratic patronage, the politicization of society and the institutionalization of the state created an ‘absolute’ criticism of corruption, at the turn from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century (Engels, 2006). Far from being timeless, political corruption has a history.

Today, common sense defines it as the abuse of public position for private purposes. One objective of these meetings is to show how the concept of corruption refers to practices of  favor and  uses of influence on the one hand , and their perception by the public on the other, in different countries at various times: perceptions and practices vary over time and space.

The project captures the phenomena of corruption in their two constituent dimensions: practices dominated by political favors; and the processes of publicity which, together with the rise of the mass media or the “new visibility”, have transformed the scandals into a recurring form of public debates (Thompson, 2000, Engels, 2009).

This raises questions about public morality and the cultural construction of “indignation”, in defence of the common good and general interest (Jankowski, 2008). Taking into account the differences between political models and national traditions in various countries, one expects that comparative studies can provide certain spotlights :  on national characteristics and common trends, which have not hitherto been emphasised in scientific research on corruption.

Thematic and scientific perspectives

Four themes are scheduled for these meetings.

1 / The political economy of favors: public standards and private practices
2/ The networks of influence: patronage, clientelism and interests
3/ The corruption debates:  scandals and their actors
4/ Uses of “indignation”: civic morals, collective myths and political strategies.

The organizers have adopted a historical and constructivist perspective. Nevertheless, the call for papers is addressed to specialists of various social sciences – sociology, anthropology, political science, and history of law as well-.

In the same vein, the project  focuses on the whole historical sequence, from around 1800 and can accommodate contributions analysing very recent history – from the 1980s -.

Lastly, although the west European area is at the heart of the investigation, proposals dealing with other European countries or North America, are very welcome.

The general assumption is that phenomena related to patronage and corruption are neither anthropological constants, nor forms of deviance, which can be defined a priori. The papers are welcome to discuss and criticise these scientific postulates.


Paper proposals, up to 400 words, can be submitted in German, English and French. We would expect (short) presentations to be in English.

Proposals should be submitted until 30 June 2011, to Jens Ivo Engels and Frederic Monier.



The Scientific Committee will respond by September 15, 2011.

Successful proposals will be published on the website of the “Politics and Corruption” program ( les carnets de POC / K, at  http://hypotheses.org -under construction).

The organizers commit themselves to follow the academic rules of respect for ethics and the fight against fraud, as Michelle Bergaada, at University of Geneva, defined them ( http://responsable.unige.ch /)

References and citations

BÖSCH, Franck, (2009), Öffentliche Geheimnisse: Skandale, Politik und Medien in Deutschland und Großbritannien, 1880-1914, München.

DE BLIC, Damien, et LEMIEUX, Cyril, (2005), « Le scandale comme épreuve. Éléments de sociologie pragmatique », in: Politix 3, N° 71 , p.9-38.

ENGELS, Jens Ivo, (2006), « Politische Korruption in der Moderne. Debatten und Praktiken in Großbritannien und Deutschland im 19. Jahrhundert », in: Historische Zeitschrift 282, p. 313-350.

Engels, Jens Ivo (2008), „Corruption as a Political Issue in Modern Societies: France, Great Britain and the United States in the Long 19th Century”, in: Public Voices X, N° 2, p.68-86.

Engels, Jens Ivo (2009), „Revolution und Panama. Korruptionsdebatten als Systemkritik in Frankreich vom 18. Jahrhundert bis zur Dritten Republik“, in: Engels, Jens Ivo/ Fahrmeir, Andreas/ Nützenadel, Alexander (Hrsg.) (2009), Geld – Geschenke – Politik. Korruption im neuzeitlichen Europa (Beihefte der Historischen  Zeitschrift 48), München, p.143-174.

JANKOWSKI, Paul, (2008), Shades of indignation : political scandals in France, past and present, New York /Oxford.

LASCOUMES, Pierre, [dir.], (2010), Favoritisme et corruption à la française: petits arrangements avec la probité, Paris.

MONIER, Frédéric, (2007), La politique des plaintes. Clientélisme et demandes sociales dans le Vaucluse d’Edouard Daladier (1890-1940), Paris.

MONIER, Frédéric, (2011), Corruption et politique: rien de nouveau?, Paris.

REQUATE, Jörg (dir.) (2009): Das 19. Jahrhundert als Mediengesellschaft – Les médias au XIXe siècle, München.

THOMPSON, John B., (2000), Political scandal: power and visibility in the Media age, Cambridge.


Une réflexion sur « [Call for papers] Favors, influence and corruption: culture and politics in modern and contemporary times (19th-20th centuries) »

  1. You know if we seriously destine ourself for a corruption-free (and pollution-free) society with decent Politics, has to put genuine commitment in our own mindset. Most of the communities (Bengali or Tamil) in this sub-continent are captured by ‘Culture of Poverty’(Oscar Lewis), irrespective of class or strata, dwells in pavement or in apartment. We are not at all ashamed(or hurt) of the deep-rooted corruption, decaying quality of life, bad Politics, poor work place, weak mother language, erosion of Social Space. We use to become parents only by self-procreation (animal instinct supported by cheap consumerism) deliberately depriving the incoming children’s fundamental rights of a caring society, fearless & dignified living. Never think of alternative(positive) sentiment/gesture, passionate parenthood – stop giving birth to any child till the society improves fundamentally, co-parenting children those are born out of extreme poverty, instead. If a freedom is desired from vicious cycle of poverty & nasty pollution need to deviate a little from the prototype lifestyle, start a movement of ‘Production of Space’(Henri Lefebvre), quality and dedicated Politics would certainly come up. Howrah, India.

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