Conclusion

  • Math Bucholski
  • Konrad Duffy
  • Carolione Gröne
  • Maxime Hensels
  • Magdalena König
  • Christophe Leclerc
  • Jonas Quicker
  • Pia Sombetzki
  • Jasmijn van der Most
  • Victor Werner
  • Jakob Zeijl

Abstract

Based on the Baconian imperative that "knowledge is power", the drive for transparency gathers up ever-more speed. Especially in politics and economics, transparency has become a widely used catchphrase. Transparency is supposed to alter information asymmetries, improve market efficiency and establish a more inclusive and fair political praxis. While transparency is hoped to alter power relations, and thus to be a revolutionary or at least a reformative tool, surveillance is the privilege of those already in power, and thus regarded as a reactionary tool.        The studies in this joint volume have investigated this dichotomy by looking at various actors in regard to their possibility to change or cement existing power relations, symmetries, improve market efficiency, and establish a more inclusive and fair political praxis. While transparency is hoped to alter power relations, and thus to be a revolutionary or at least a reformative tool, surveillance is the privilege of those already in power. Each contribution, in its unique way, took a skeptical stance towards potential power shifts induced through societal or behavioral changes. This book examined a multitude of societal actors and the power relations between them. Although all contributions highlighted very different subject matters, some common themes emerged. These common themes ought to be highlighted in this final section. Moreover, this final chapter allows us to briefly summarise the central themes and most important finding of each article.        The first contribution treats surveillance and transparency as two sides of the same coin in the sense that both are attempts at changing behaviour by increasing the visibility of actors. Zeijl examines several attempts at transparency from a wide variety of actors. He argues that transparency, as it is currently put in practice by governments and companies, is more lip service than real concern with accountability and openness. Zeijl claims that these attempts at transparency are influenced by the logic of surveillance and therefore consolidate already existing power relations. While there are alternative ways of constructing transparency, they all have possible adverse effects that cannot and should not be easily cast aside. Therefore, one needs to critically assess what the exact benefits of transparency are in order to reach a balanced judgement on whether these possible adverse effects are worth the risk. Since transparency is more often invoked than defined, it is absolutely crucial to pay attention to the structure that transparency is supposed to assume, its organisation, its agents, and its potential impacts. Otherwise, transparency becomes a metaphysical catchphrase to graze (political) support rather than a real concern for accountability and openness.
Published
2016-06-27