While corruption has long been recognized as a major social problem, only relatively recently has the importance of a specific institutional form of corruption been noted. However, despite the fact that institutional corruption has come to be seen as very important, it remains a challenge to specify exactly what makes something a case of institutional corruption. To overcome this challenge, this paper argues that institutional corruption is the result of an individual or collective agent acting in ways that prevent a social institution from partially or fully fulfilling its function. In turn, the function of a social institution is spelled out in line with what is shown to be the most compelling account of social functionalism in the literature: Presentist Social Functionalism. Presentist Social Functionalism sees the function of a social institution as those of its features that increase its expected reproductive or survival success in the current socio-cultural environment. This theory of institutional corruption is shown to have a number of highly desirable features: it is general, fully spelled out, situated in a wider functionalist approach towards the social sciences, and does justice to the complexity of institutional corruption.
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