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Towards a Critical Cultural Theory of the Moral Economy of Fraud (LUXCORE)



Project number: 313004

Financed by: The Research Council of Norway

Project duration: 01.04.2021 – 31.03.2024   


Project Leader: Tereza Østbø Kuldova 


Collaborating Partners: Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies, Northumbria University in Newcastle, Università di Bologna, University of West Bohemia in Pilsen


Why is corruption still increasing worldwide, despite universal recognition by all relevant international organizations that it needs to be fought? Everyone is against corruption. Former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq, one of the world’s most corrupt countries, according to various assessments, has stated that corruption is more dangerous than terrorism. Kofi Annan and Pope Francis alike agree that corruption is evil – a moral problem, with global ethics as a solution. But why do the numerous measures to improve ethical standards and increase transparency and accountability have little effect? To answer these pressing questions, LUXCORE utilizes theories and qualitative methods from anthropology, critical criminology and cultural theory to develop a novel, critical theory of corruption. We start out from two basic recognitions: First, corruption is itself underpinned by a criminogenic moral culture, the ‘moral economy of fraud’. Second, corruption and luxury are inextricably linked. Entities simultaneously make use of the defiance industry (suppliers of luxury goods and services to ensure confidentiality) and the compliance industry (helping them appear as ethical). Underpinned by the moral economy of fraud, the defiance industry shapes the compliance industry that is supposed to combat it. More ethical requirements, in the form of ever more parameters and quantifiables, do not appear to be the solution. LUXCORE’s main objective is to understand why, by analysing the moral economy of fraud through concrete case studies of the (WP1) luxury sector and the defiance industry, (WP2) compliance in the luxury sector, and (WP3) political corruption, populism, and anti-corruption, to generate (WP4) an original and novel theory of corruption and the moral economy of fraud. Only a radically different theoretical lens will allow us to transgress the dialectic of defiance and compliance that prevents us from actually tackling corruption. The project utilized a broad range of qualitative methods.


Research Team 

Project Leader 

Tereza Østbø Kuldova, OsloMet - Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway

Core Researchers

Jardar N. Østbø, Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies, Norway

Thomas RaymenNorthumbria University in Newcastle, UK

Bitten Nordrik, OsloMet - Oslo Metropolitan University, Norway

Davide Casciano, Università di Bologna, Italy

Audrey Millet, University of Oslo, Norway

Petr Kupka, University of West Bohemia, Czech Republic

Advisory Board

Cris Shore, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK

Joanne Roberts, Winchester School of Art, UK 

Luca JourdanUniversità di Bologna, Italy

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