The Partial Organization of Networked Corruption

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Business and Society, 2018
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© 2018, The Author(s) 2018. This article uses the concept of partial organization to examine how organizing principles can facilitate the effective operation of networked forms of corruption. We analyze the case study of a corruption network in the South Korean maritime industry in terms of how it operated by selectively appropriating practices normally associated with formal bureaucratic organizations. Our findings show that organizational elements built into the corruption network enabled coordination of corruption activities and served to distort and override practices within member organizations. The network was primarily organized through the hierarchical organization of a bounded and controlled set of members and, to a lesser extent, through processes of monitoring and sanctions. Given its clandestine nature, the network avoided the use of explicit rules to govern behavior, instead relying on habituated routines to ensure consistent and predictable action from members. We find that organizational elements were rescinded when the corruption network was exposed after the sinking of a passenger ferry, the Sewol. By rolling back its hierarchical organization and reverting to core relationships, the corruption network sought to preserve its center. The article illustrates the explanatory value of studying how the activities of corruption networks are enabled and adapt to existential challenges through partial organization.
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