In This Review

Rotten States? Corruption, Post-Communism, and Neoliberalism
Rotten States? Corruption, Post-Communism, and Neoliberalism
By Leslie Holmes
Duke University Press, 2006, 440 pp.

For too long, corruption in the postcommunist states has been treated as a noxious but secondary problem rather than as a core obstacle to reform, a poisonous basis for public alienation, a threat to the natural environment, and a deadly source of contamination and violence in the wider international setting. Holmes, a veteran student of its forms in communist societies, provides a careful catalog of corruption's mutating shape, size, causes, and consequences in five postcommunist countries: Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Russia, and, for these purposes, China. He confronts the definitional problems, constructs a hierarchy of corrupt actions, explores various ways of measuring their scope, considers the reasons for corruption, and assesses various measures for addressing it. This makes for as thorough, albeit narrowly defined, an account of corruption in these five states as one will find. Still, one comes away from the book with a feeling that the larger contours and portent of this rogue elephant, now so central to the future of these societies and so malignant in international affairs, remain only partially captured.