Between the ethical and the right thing

How (not) to be corrupt in Indonesian bureaucracy in an age of good governance

by Sylvia Tidey

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Is it possible to be corrupt yet ethical? Or good but unethical? In one of Indonesia's most corrupt towns, the answers to these questions are far from clear for young elite civil servants, who must navigate the moral-ethical landscape of post-Suharto bureaucracy. For them, anticorruption efforts heighten uncertainty regarding what corruption is and facilitate slippage between various constructions of ethical selfhood. The uncertainty arises at the intersection of local moral economies, national ideologies of state building, the particular global morality of anticorruption, and a conception of the good that inspires neoliberal ideas on governance. Finding themselves at this intersection, young civil servants can find no unambiguous contrast between being “good” and “corrupt.”