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14 Conn. J. Int'l L. 509 (1999)
The Inevitable Corruption of Transition

handle is hein.journals/conjil14 and id is 515 raw text is: THE INEVITABLE CORRUPTION OF TRANSITION
Kim Lane Scheppele*
Ne poiman - ne vor - Russian proverb. (Literally: Until one is
caught, one is not a thief.)
Innocent until proven guilty - English translation.'
The difficulties of developing transparent democratic institutions and
efficient free markets in Eastern Europe2 show how common ideas can
turn  into   a diversity   of practices.      It is not enough       for everyone to
understand the ideas in order for complex institutions to be reproduced.
One also needs a certain amount of social and normative infrastructure to
sustain an idea in practice as it moves from one context to another.
In particular, the idea of and practices surrounding corruption
generate a great deal of cross-cultural confusion. As the Cold War has
further cooled, Western advisors and investors going into the former
Soviet empire have been outraged by the degree of corruption going on in
* Professor of Law and Sociology, University of Pennsylvania; Senior Visiting Scholar, National
Constitution Center, Philadelphia PA; Recurring Visiting Professor, Central European University,
Budapest. Much of the material reported in this essay was collected while the author was doing
research on legal consciousness in Hungary under grants # SBR-9411889 and # SBR-9514174 from
the (American) National Science Foundation Law and Social Science Program. The author would like
to thank Serguei Oushakine for providing wise advise and good examples, Helen Hartnell for getting
me into this subject in the first place, Joel Paul for his inspiration and encouragement, my Hungarian
friends who found me a place in their networks, and the enthusiastic participants in the conference on
political corruption for a lot to think about.
1. 2001 RUSSIAN AND ENGLISH IDIOMS 32 (Agnes Arany-Makkai ed., 1997). I am indebted to
Serguei Oushakine for the literal translation and for calling my attention to this proverb in the first
2. 1 will use the term Eastern Europe here to refer both to Central and Eastern Europe as well as
to the former Soviet Union. There are huge differences within and between these regions, however, so
I will try to specify countries and social locations more precisely as I go along. I will also use the
West rather generally as well to refer to North America and Western Europe, though there is similar
diversity within that category too. The point in the contrast between East and West is to mark the
differences, broadly speaking, between those countries that have tried the Soviet experiment and those
that have tried the democratic/market one. As I hope to show, however, there are more parallels in
current practices than sometime meets the (Western) eye.

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