In This Review

Corruption as a Last Resort: Adapting to the Market in Central Asia
Corruption as a Last Resort: Adapting to the Market in Central Asia
By Kelly M. McMann
Cornell University Press, 2014, 200 pp

Economic development specialists and agencies used to consider corruption to be a secondary issue. Now, they see it as not merely a factor in dysfunctional economies but also a potential source of extremist violence and terrorism. For her part, McMann looks at how corruption figures in the daily lives of people struggling to meet their basic needs in the turmoil of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, societies moving from Soviet-style economies to market-based ones. This is not the voluptuous venality of high officials and heavy rollers manipulating laws and regulations but rather, as she says, “petty corruption”—the small bribes, favors, and paid-for votes offered by the average person to get a modest loan, a job, or money for food, housing, or health care. Relying on a wealth of survey and interview data, she makes an intriguing argument: ordinary people in these countries engage in corruption only as “a last resort,” after losing alternative sources of support, such as the government, charitable organizations, social groups, or family—losses that often occur when economic reform takes place in the absence of strong institutions.