In Moral Economies of Corruption, Steven Pierce posits an original theory of state formation in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The discourse on corruption pertains to the ethics of bureaucratic culture: how ethics both sanction and interact with constituted civic orders in Western Africa. The term is premised on a presumed universal ethics, the contravention of which only individual actors and cultures bear responsibility. The bureaucratic norms of the Westphalian nation-state developed out of centuries of European moral and ecclesiastical negotiations of the Family of Nations. The Berlin Conference of 1884–85 established in international law a bureaucratic framework for the establishment of African states implicated in Westphalian bureaucratic norms. Following independence, Pierce argues, Nigeria betrayed “international norms” as it became associated with profound bureaucratic malfeasance due to the irreconciliation of its ethnic “heterogeneous components” with the federal bureaucracy (7–8).

Nigeria is a federation of thirty-six states and numerous ethnic groups...

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