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It is not corruption

Reader comment on item: Wasta: The Hidden Force in Middle Eastern Society

Submitted by Anonymous (Turkey), May 15, 2016 at 14:42

Corruption is a concept. It can be called so (or any other word, arbitrarily), by making observations, reasoning about it, deciding what such action constitutes, and attaching the conclusion to a word - in this case, "corruption". It is a whole process of human faculty called reasoning, concluding with another human faculty called conceptualization. One needs enough number of individuals in a community to be capable of such process for establishing this or any other concept in that community.

In absence of a critical mass / enough number of individuals capable of reasoning and conceptualization, we can not talk about corruption concerning a community. Because it won't mean anything. The concept won't be there.

Wasta is a social function that takes place in absence of the above. It might work well in a community of 20 to 200 people - a tribe. It still works well for concerned individuals in a larger community - a city's whole population - but at everybody else's expense. Because everybody knows everybody else inside- out in a tribe but nobody really knows anybody else in that sense in a city of one million.

The modern form of wasta is not exclusive to the Middle East. It exists and is called "clientelism" in the West. What's different there is you can call it corruption and the word means something. No one yet could eliminate clientelism altogether in the West but it can be fought against and suppressed to an extent. The winner is obvious.

Wasta, or whatever it may be called, makes everybody losers not only in the Middle East but everywhere in the world. On the other side of the coin, if wasta was eliminated in absence of concepts-capable individuals (and their ethics), all employers and their businesses would be at mercy of their employees who decide what they are entitled to subjectively.

I did business in the Middle East and recruited several employees on objective grounds for a workplace I designed as merit-based. Some of them gave lots of headache by deciding they should take an arbitrary absence, a raise, a promotion, etc. just because they had thought they should. I couldn't and wouldn't use wasta so I learnt what to look at when recruiting. In the end it worked well to a fine business. I can credit that to my reasoning faculties. But I should also credit the free market structure there which allowed me to operate. Wasta is what it is but they don't nationalize your business at a whim there.

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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