This essay examines the ongoing “fight against corruption” in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The PMU-18 scandal (ca. 2005–2007), the country’s largest to date, is featured as a way to explore how different initiatives to audit the financial-moral practices of officials at all levels of government shape one another in contemporary Vietnam. This focus, which considers the material consequences of different discursive positions, reveals a curious paradox. Namely, the dominant regulatory approaches in use today define the primary source of bureaucratic corruption and thus the forms of intervention best suited towards its reduction in terms that are most often associated with the other. “Socialist” approaches, which are conventionally thought to rely upon techno-scientific and administrative modes of regulation, also called for external performance audits and other business management techniques to provide greater incentives for individuals to engage in ethical forms of self-regulation, whereas “neoliberal” approaches, which normally abhor regulatory mechanisms, recommended the reintroduction of centralized command-and-control measures to limit the ability of government officials to abuse their public positions for private gain. This outcome suggests that both regulatory regimes and the techniques used to promote accountability may have more in common than is commonly thought as it also raises the possibility that recombinant forms now exist. The patterns also provide comparative insights into (trans)national efforts to guide the conduct of conduct in settings that are neither Western nor liberal.


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pp. 595-625
Launched on MUSE
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