The Cybernetics of Corruption

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Robert HODGE, Western Sydney University, Australia
Corruption is a major problem across the modern world, expressing and exacerbating relations of injustice, violence and unequal power. It is recognised even in popular discourse as a systemic problem, yet there have been remarkably few approaches using advanced forms of system theory, especially those with a socio-cybernetic basis. This paper will propose and test a number of models and scenarios for corruption, using a range of empirical data from one study area, corruption in Mexico. The paper will explore and evaluate two main alternative hypotheses. One hypothesis is that ‘corruption’ refers to an embedded system within a larger system, with feedback mechanisms whose function is to maintain or increase the scope of the corruption system within the larger system through homeostatic or auto-poietic devices. On this hypothesis, most attempts to reform or eradicate corruption will predictably fail. Strategies to affect corruption of this kind will need to use existing properties of the system against the system of corruption. The second hypothesis is that ‘corruption’ should refer to a class of pathologies of complex social systems. One that will be examined in this paper is the pathogenic effects of changes to higher-order components of hierarchically-ordered control systems, identified by Bateson (1972) as implicated in schizophrenia and schizogenesis. Another is the effect of leakage between interdependent but autonomous three-body systems of systems, as is common with corruption as usually defined, as illicit alignments between economic, political and semiotic systems (money, power and truth). The task of the paper is to translate these real-world descriptions into system terms, and produce models and scenarios that can be elaborated and tested.