CAS SEE Seminars with Guests: Liz David-Barrett

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Liz David-Barrett joined the University of Sussex in 2014, following four years at Said Business School and two years in the Department of Sociology at the University of Oxford. Liz has a DPhil in Politics from Oxford, an MA in Slavonic and East European Studies from the University of London, and a BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (Oxford). Liz previously worked for London think tanks the Institute for Public Policy Research and the Centre for European Reform, political risk consultancy Oxford Analytica, and before that was a journalist in Croatia and Hungary, reporting for The Economist, the Financial Times, the BBC World Service and Business Central Europe.

Re-thinking state capture and moving beyond

On Thursday, November 18th at 12 am (CET), we hosted CAS SEE Weekly Seminar with Liz David-Barrett, Professor of Governance and Integrity (Politics) at the School of Law, Politics and Sociology, University of Sussex, presented by our fellow Tena Prelec.

State capture is a type of systematic corruption whereby narrow interest groups take control of the institutions and processes that make public policy, excluding other parts of the public whose interests those institutions are supposed to serve. Initially uses to describe the first decade of transition in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, state capture was conceived as being driven by business interests, with the political sphere assumed to be vulnerable to this exploitation, but not necessarily an active agent. However, in its more recent form, capture is often driven by political elites rather than business interests. In so-called ‘kleptocracies’, public officeholders abuse the power attached to their office to steal money and assets for themselves, but also to consolidate and entrench their hold on power. Retaining power becomes a high-stakes game not just because they wish to retain access to opportunities for embezzlement, but also because whilst in power they benefit from impunity; if ousted, they become far more exposed to the threat of law enforcement investigations or prosecutions for their past crimes. In examples of state capture around the world today, business and political elites exist in a relationship of co-dependency. Political leaders grant access to state assets and contracts to their business allies, but the business leaders then provide support of various kinds, such as the use of violence to silence or intimidate political opposition, favourable media coverage, votes from trade union members or the electorate in certain regions, and campaign finance. The talk aims to discuss the characteristics of state capture, ask whether it is coherent as a concept when applied widely, and raise questions about how the process of capture can be arrested and reversed.

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