Corruption, evil and society: Baudrillard and dissolution


Getting to the roots of corruption would be an endless business. No one could plumb its depths. Without any doubt, it is consubstantial with social functioning. But at least the ‘war on corruption’ evokes its spectra and presents us with it as spectacle. Now, the spectacle of corruption is a vital function in a democracy: it provides entertainment and has an educative, cathartic function. It does not produce any deep-seated bitterness; otherwise revolt would be permanently festering. In the end, corruption does not arouse any collective indignation (though, this, naturally, is filtered by the media).

Everyone dimly realizes that any system functions in denial of its own principles, transgressing its own rules. And this resignation over principles feeds an abashed consensus on the hidden, immoral rules by which our society operates. Corruption in democracy is simply the new form assumed by privilege –the rule in earlier societies –which has merely become illegal, thus adding further to its charm. Corruption itself is, in this way, a vital function: a secret mechanism of a whole society, a source of political energy, a public service.

What people ultimately want is to be given a chance to give, as they have elsewhere been given the chance to vote or, on any of the confessional TV programs, the chance to speak. So those who satisfy this desire, taking their cut from it as they do, are performing a genuine public service. At any rate, the money misappropriated in the process, being deflected first from its useful (private) purposes, then from its useful (public) purposes by the cancer crooks, still meets the same fate: it is squandered. In this respect it is similar to the money sacrificed in gambling and in playing the lottery.

It has never been the primordial function of a society to put money and resources to moral ends, even if it is the alleged ideal of all our democracies. Money remains at all times and in all places the accursed share, the immoral share, the evil portion. And the primordial function remains that of managing that accursed share, of voiding and laundering money through gambling, waste, misappropriation and corruption; destroying money by its immoral use; destroying evil with evil. This is the strategy of evil, the politics of evil which preserves the symbolic equilibrium of a society. Evil be to him who evil thinks.