In the sociopolitical context, corruption exists when established norms allocating rights and obligations in a society are systemically breached. In modern states, those norms have been reduced to laws, rules, and regulations that are protected by institutions, such as police, courts, and regulatory bodies that define and enforce compliance with these legal norms. It has become increasingly apparent in recent years that institutions of legal compliance are failing both within and among modern states, as well as within the enforcement structures of international insitutions and that these failures are undermining the legitimacy of these political structures and challenging the authority of modern states.
Here I examine the origins of the legal-institutional character of the modern state as found in the “liberal democracy” of the United States, and how it demonstrates the fundamental contradiction between “liberalism” and “popular democracy” that now appears as the crisis of the modern state among those states and international institutions that have followed the US liberal-democratic model. The contradiction lies in political structures that rhetorically claim to be democratic, but which are subject to constructions of economic power that are inherently anti-democratic. The 230-year failed effort of the US to resolve this contradiction, which is now appearing as a breakdown in its system of governance, signals the need to critically examine and rethink governance beyond the existing organization of the modern state.
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