Corruption and state-building. The case of Iceland

Gunnar Helgi Kristinsson


The Nordic countries are generally considered relatively low-corrupt systems. A host of different factors have been invoked to account for the region’s distinctiveness in this respect, including both institutional and socio-cultural factors. The current study presents an addition to the literature on Nordic state building and corruption through the less studied case of Iceland. It is argued that the Icelandic case is important when weighing the relative impact of sociocultural vs. institutional factors in the emergence of corruption. Unlike the other Nordic states, Iceland experienced a significant amount of corruption during the twentieth century even if it shares many social and cultural features with the other Nordic states. What makes it stand apart is the lack of a strong institutional basis for bureaucratic autonomy, which contributed to relatively high levels of politicization in public life and greater corruption than commonly found in the Nordic countries.


Political corruption; Iceland; state-building; institutions.


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