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jp 5 ny

David Wästerfors


jp 5 ny

Berättelser om mutor : Det korruptas betydelse bland svenska affärsmän i Öst- och Centraleuropa


  • David Wästerfors

Summary, in English

What does it mean to bribe someone? What is the meaning of bribes? Questions like these have motivated this study. Its central argument is that the folk meanings of “bribes” and “corruption” depend on people’s symbolic demarcations and definitions. Corruption is something we actively define as well as something through which we define ourselves.

A specific case has been used: stories about bribes told by Swedish businessmen in Eastern Central Europe. The empirical material consists of 36 qualitatively oriented interviews with Swedes, mostly living and working in Poland or the Czech Republic. This material is analysed from a narrative perspective.

The analysis is divided into four chapters: (1) others’ bribes, (2) tactics, (3) courtships, and (4) “defence speeches”. Each chapter introduces a certain way of ascribing meaning to bribes and corruption, representing altogether a structure of narrative points of view (or symbolic role-takings).

Others’ bribes, or corruption in general, constitute a source of irritation, as well as providing useful explanations of business failures. Such stories seem to translate situational resentment. To give bribes, on the other hand, is narrated in terms of a tactical and ethnographical way of acting. A giver is portrayed as complying with others and others’ culture but also as skilful and successful. There is also a recurrent association from bribes to something else, here called courtships. To be sociable and friendly is related to bribes in a contrasting as well as complementary way; often it is considered as quite different. Finally, stories about bribes constitute a site for various “accounts” (excuses and justifications). They contain specific self-portraits, depicting an encounter with corruption as an experience or an ordeal.

The study argues that stories about bribes are particularly concerned with gift relations and blame. A bribe functions as a blameworthy gift, narratively activated when expectations of reciprocities are held to be strong or explicit, as well as normatively ruled out. The study also discusses how conventional images of Eastern Europe shape and support the interviewees’ stories. An extended summary in English is included.


  • Sociology

Publishing year




Document type



Brutus Östlings Bokförlag Symposion


  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)


  • gift
  • blame
  • stories
  • narrative
  • rhetoric
  • symbolic interaction
  • interviews
  • businessmen
  • Eastern Europe
  • resentment
  • tactics
  • ethnography
  • courtships
  • identifications
  • accounts
  • defence speeches
  • Sociology
  • Social psychology
  • rumours
  • corruption
  • bribes
  • bribery
  • Criminology
  • Sociologi
  • Socialpsykologi
  • Kriminologi



Research group

  • Kriminal- och socialvetenskapligt nätverk


  • Malin Åkerström


  • ISBN: 91-7139-664-0
  • ISRN: /LUSADG/SASO-04/1158/SE

Defence date

2 April 2004

Defence time


Defence place

Kulturens auditorium, Lund


  • Barbara Czarniawska