LAWHONS 735 - ST: Corruption and Democracy

Credit points: 20 points
Offered: Full-year
Contact hours: Lectures - 2 hours per week
Course Coordinator: Associate Professor Timothy Kuhner

Course description

From one of the earliest concerns of morality and political philosophy to the subject of the latest global treaty sponsored by the United Nations, corruption has long played a powerful role in human affairs. In the broad sense, corruption includes not just concrete acts such as bribery, embezzlement, money laundering, and obstruction of justice, but also more textured phenomena such as trading in influence, cronyism, and state capture by corporations or oligarchs. Today, corruption is so widespread that it has become a leading cause of inequalities in political and economic systems, environmental destruction, human rights violations, and even rising populism and authoritarianism.

This seminar springs from corruption’s global significance and its devastating implications for self-government. Its purpose is to explore the intersection between corruption and democracy in particular. How does corruption manifest in democracies? How does it affect core democratic values and procedures? How can distinct sources of law, from constitutions to treaties, protect democracy from corruption?  

In the first semester, the lecturer will lead class dialogues on a  variety of topics, including the following: the definition and effects of corruption; how corruption can be measured and countries ranked in terms of their levels of corruption; domestic and  international legal frameworks for preventing and punishing corruption-related offenses, including the legal framework in New  Zealand and in the United Nations Convention Against Corruption; and how corruption intersects with the law of democracy. (The law of democracy includes the legal standards governing political participation, elections, lobbying and legislative activity, and the financing of political campaigns and political parties. This area of law will be one of our main concerns throughout the year.)  

In the second semester, each student will give a detailed  presentation on the topic of their research paper. Topics must be approved in advance by the lecturer. To facilitate the research component of the course, one class period early on in Semester 1 will be devoted to issues of topic selection and academic writing, and students will be encouraged to meet with the lecturer during office hours.   



  • Honours seminar paper (70%)
  • In-class presentation of seminar paper (20%)
  • Class participation throughout both semesters (excluding paper presentation) (10%)