To guide my study of corruption in Kazakhstan, I choose a theoretical framework offered by Van Roy (1970), which considers corruption along three theoretical lines: ethnocentric, functionalist, and evolutionist. Van Roy argues that first two reinforce stability, and the last focuses on change. Van Roy’s three approaches are discussed as follows: first, the ethnocentric approach is described as corruption facilitated by local culture rather then by a departure from a prevailing morality in Western cultures; second, the functionalist approach defines corruption as an efficient instrument to achieve the desired ends; and the evolutionist approach views corruption as the adaptation of behavior in response to environmental change (Van Roy, 1970). In my analysis of causes of corruption, I apply all three approaches to explain rampant corruption that has developed in Kazakhstan over last 20 years. Yet, I modify the sequence of theoretical approaches offered by Van Roy to build a logical sequence theoretical approach for the case of Kazakhstan.
First, I consider the evolutionist-adaptation approach to account for the effects of economic and political transition in Kazakhstan in the 1990s, known among international scholars as “shock therapy” (Sachs and Larrain, 1993). In my study, I consider several of the “shock therapy” consequences - fast value shift in regard to the power of money, reorientation from public to private benefits, which altered people’s relationships with one another to become money-focused.
Arguably, economic transition has facilitated corruption. Second, I use the functionalist approach to explain the comparatively high tolerance for corruption in Kazakhstan, where many people started viewing corruption as the only way to achieve results. Third, I apply the ethnocentric approach to describe the role of local traditions that helped to embed corruption in social and business relationships in Kazakhstan. I argue that these three conditions combined to create a selfperpetuating system of corruption in Kazakhstan. Global pressure to stop corrupt practices and evident economic losses from corruption proved ineffective in curbing corruption.
I apply Van Roy’s (1970) theoretical approach to explain corruption in Kazakhstan using three integrated causes: (1) transition from socialist to capitalist ideology and economy (evolutionist approach), (2) desire to quickly achieve wealth as the economic end (functionalist approach), (3) and persistent tradition of clan and family obligations (ethnocentric approach). I construct this tripartite framework to explain the conditions and events that fostered corrupt practices in Kazakhstani government. I do not intend to focus on the consequences of corruption, which have been studied and discussed by many scholars. I use Van Roy’s framework to highlight the forces that led to the development of systemic corruption in Kazakhstan and to discuss whether relevant ideology, forces, and institutions exist that may lead the country to overcome corruption at any time soon.