The central paradox of corruption in the political life of the global South is how such a widely despised phenomenon persists so untroubled by allthe negative attention. The two books under discussion—Steven Pierce's Moral Economies of Corruption and Milan Vaishnav's When Crime Pays—demonstrate that to make sense of that paradox, one needs to go beyond the dominant legal/technocratic understanding of corruption as either private acts of illegality or failures of the civic democratic process. Thinking further with the insights offered by those books, the article sugg ests that the phenomenon of corruption can only be made sense of when placed within the matrix of political and social power relations in the global South democracies. Corruptions appear not as distortions in an idealized democratic marketplace, but in the context of maneuvers of counter-democratic power to maintain existing hierarchies of dominations against tides of democratic mobilization, not merely as a subversion of the public good, but in reaction to attempts to make goods public.

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