Augusto De Venanzi, professor of sociology, presented at the third Forum of the International Sociological Association in Vienna, Austria, on July 10-14. His presentation was titled “Corruption and Cheating as the Tragedy of Modern Culture.”
From the abstract:
Increased political corruption, and cheating in a wide diversity of activities such as sports and academic examinations are becoming two of the most important problems affecting the life of contemporary societies.
The literature on corruption and cheating concurs in that these forms of deviance occur within the framework of particular sub-cultures that work to normalize or legitimate such practices. Some forms of corruption are accepted among political circles. Also, studies on cheating at exams show that many students justify helping friends they are close to, whereas in professional sports many athletes see “fair play” like an expression of amateurism.
Normative frameworks have been put in place to curb dishonesty such as the UN Convention Against Corruption. Severe punishment now awaits exam cheaters, and new screening techniques are used to detect doping in sports. However, beyond such disciplinary responses lies the need to acquire a deeper understanding of the cultural forces driving these harmful trends. It is my contention that the work of George Simmel on the Tragedy of Culture, which duels on the massive growth of objective cultural products, and their overwhelming impact over the subjective culture of individuals, can shed light on the problem at hand.