The dominant understanding of the ‘conflict of interest’, grounded in a quintessentially Western conceptualization of public and private , has been applied across contexts as part and parcel of the ‘good governance project’ in pursuit of a “better world” . The case of Slovakia illuminates the predicaments of seeking to organize the social reality of public/private interaction in a context distinctively divergent from the one in which the ‘conflict of interest’ concept originated. The precariousness of the Western ‘conflict of interest’ concept lies in the fundamentally different appreciation of public and private. In the Slovak conception, ‘the public’ translates into the state, embodied, not merely represented, by the government and imbued with the historic experience of Slovak subordination to foreign administration. The state has become a symbol of oppression and an arch-adversary. The public interest thus translates into the interest of the state, rather than a common interest of members of a polity. ‘Private’ denotes an individual engaged in the perpetual fight against the state, taking part in which, by advancing private interest, underpins the very substance of being Slovak. The ‘conflict of interest’ concept appears ill-founded in the context of animosity between local Slovak notions of public and private. This has implications for the symbiosis of interests along the lines ‘good governance’, and highlights the perils of minimizing conflict and achieving synergy between individual, society and the state and across societies by means of a universal paradigm.
Gabriela Bereghazyova, University of Surrey, United Kingdom
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