ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Everyday Corruption and the Political Mediation of the Indian State

This analysis examines what the ubiquitous presence of political "brokers" who mediate many people's access to state institutions reveals about the Indian state and the complex causes of corruption in Indian public life. Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Bihar since 2002, it reveals the role of brokers within both village power relations and the larger political system. This analysis implies that, in addition to the institutional reforms that are currently at the centre of public debate, tackling corruption in everyday state administration would require wide-reaching sociopolitical transformations and massive investments in basic state capacity.

An earlier version of this paper was presented at a workshop entitled “Frontline Functionaries of the Indian State” at the Center for the Advanced Study of India at the University of Pennsylvania. I would like to thank all the participants, Mukulika Banerjee, Francine Frankel, Beatrice Jauregui, Devesh Kapur, Atul Kohli, K P Krishnan, Mekhala Krishnamurthy and Philip Oldenburg for their insightful comments. I would also like to thank Santhosh Mathew for many stimulating conversations on the topic of brokerage that have informed this analysis.

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