Date of Award

Summer 2009

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


International Studies

Committee Director

Kurt Taylor Gaubatz

Committee Member

David Earnest

Committee Member

Shaomin Li


There exists a corruption enigma. Experts and analysts largely agree on the institutional reforms that constitute successful corruption reform programs—this is the 'Corruption Consensus.' Unfortunately, the well-designed and resourced reform programs created from this consensus and intended to improve national institutional capabilities rarely work. Yet the reform programs patterned on the Corruption Consensus continue on. Everyone agrees what to do in order to reform corruption but everyone also agrees that it will not work. This is the Corruption Enigma.

This dissertation employs a structured, focused analysis to determine the reasons for varying success levels between otherwise similar countries in order to establish that the Corruption Consensus does not in fact result in tangible progress when implemented. I have carefully chosen three paired cases—Malawi and Tanzania, Peru and Columbia, and Thailand and the Philippines—each consisting of one country with a worsening corruption score and one with an improving corruption score. I then undertake a detailed qualitative analysis of each country of eight variables thought to be vital in corruption reform that confirms my hypothesis that successful corruption reform in highly corrupt countries is primarily a function of the idiosyncratic particulars of each country, rather than preordained institutional reform.