In light of India's ongoing anti-corruption protests, I'm exploring some of the reasons for Australia's relatively uncorrupt professions. A sample:
We call this ‘dispassionate’ or ‘disinterested’ service, but this is psychologically inaccurate. These officials retain their passion, but it is divided. There are their feelings for particular individuals, groups, institutions, laws. These are put to one side – not suppressed entirely, but uncoupled from judgement. This is possible because of another passion, which drives central decisions: for the vocation itself.
In university and training, these individuals are often taught to put loyalty to certain institutions first: medicine, law, education, the commonwealth. As the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu argues, there is still passion involved: but it is for the professional field.
They value themselves, and are valued, by virtue of their status in this field. In this light, they are not genuinely disinterested at all: but professional interests replace others like family, ethnicity, class, gender and so on. And if their field is healthy – as I believe it is for many of Australia’s professions, particularly medicine and the judiciary – they can maintain their vocational standards against corrupting forces, inside and out.(Photo: Martin Kingsley)