Sub-theme 51: Seeing, Knowing and Governing: The Organization, Institutionalization and Politics of Transparency

Mikkel Flyverbom
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark
Christina Garsten
Copenhagen Business School, Denmark, and Stockholm University, Sweden
Afshin Mehrpouya
HEC Paris, France

Call for Papers

Transparency has emerged as a dominant norm and form of governance shaping multiple types of organizations such as corporations, civil society groups and governments, and increasingly citizens' private lives. This 'triumph of transparency' (Braithwaite & Drahos, 2000) as a mode of governance, as an instrument of control and as a fundamental norm of accountability has transformed contemporary organizations (Fung et al., 2007; Garsten & Lindh de Montoya, 2008; Hood & Heald, 2006) and provided the normative underpinnings for the spread of standards-, surveillance- and audit-based forms of governance leading to what has been termed an "audit society" (Power, 1999). Also, the emergence of information technologies, the internet and social media has reinforced the global transparency push (Flyverbom, 2011) and created new possibilities for transparency efforts, as well as advocacy and activism in the name of transparency. Finally, emergence of a transnational community (Djelic & Quack, 2011) pushing for transparency has transformed transparency from a national norm of political and economic governance in the West to a world society norm (Meyer et al., 1997) that is diffused and translated into highly varied cultural, social and political contexts (Mehrpouya, 2011; Arnold, 2012).

Despite its centrality in contemporary organizations, transparency remains underexplored empirically and theoretically in the organization and management literature. The goal is to facilitate a dialogue around the organizational and institutional antecedents, workings and consequences of transparency. Some of the core topics that this sub-theme aims to address are:

  • Historical analysis of emergence of the transparency norm in economic, political and organizational spheres
  • The relationship between new technologies and transparency, and the organizational and societal implications of mediations and circulations of transparency
  • The organizing and performative properties of transparency and the relationship between transparency, governance, freedom and control
  • The empirical and conceptual relationships between transparency and surveillance, and other ways of seeing and knowing in organization and politics
  • Transparency in the transnational context and its connections to novel modes of governance and political/regime formations
  • Transparency and its intersection with questions of accountability, authority and legitimacy
  • Transparency and its relationship with other forms of disclosure, and with issues such as secrecy, opacity and privacy
  • Transparency in non-Western contexts and organizations, and how Western interpretations of transparency compete, conflict or hybridize with other governance norms
  • The limits of transparency as a mode of governance, accountability and knowledge, including its relation to quantifications and calculations that may contribute to remote decision making based on numbers, rankings, indexes, and dense data packages decontextualizating and layering information

Empirical and conceptual papers addressing transparency from different disciplinary perspectives are welcome. We are looking for a broad range of methodological groundings (qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods) and various analytical strategies (case studies, network analysis, longitudinal) as we believe that this kind of methodological and analytical combination is likely to generate complementary findings.



Arnold, Patricia J. (2012): 'The political economy of financial harmonization: The East Asian financial crisis and the rise of international accounting standards.' Accounting, Organizations and Society, 37 (6), pp. 361–381.
Djelic, Marie-Laure & Sigrid Quack (2010): Transnational Communities: Shaping Global Economic Governance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Flyverbom, Mikkel (2011): The Power of Networks: Organizing the Global Politics of the Internet. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Fung, Archon, Mary Graham & David Weil (2007): Full Disclosure: The Perils and Promise of Transparency. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Garsten, Christina & Monica Lindh de Montoya (2008): Transparency in a New Global Order: Unveiling Organizational Visions. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Hood, Christopher & David Heald (eds.) (2006): Transparency: The Key to Better Governance? London: Oxford University Press.
Mehrpouya, Afshin (2011): Sovereign Wealth Funds, the IMF and Transparency. Is everybody talking about the same thing? HEC Working Paper 4. Paris.
Meyer, John W., John Boli, George M. Thomas & Francisco O. Ramirez (1997): 'World society and the nation-state.' American Journal of Sociology, 103 (1), pp. 144–181.
Power, Michael (1999): The Audit Society: Rituals of Verification. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Mikkel Flyverbom is Associate Professor at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark. His research focuses on questions of transparency, governance and global politics, with a particular interest in digital media, 'big data' and the Internet industry.
Christina Garsten is Professor at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark, and at Stockholm University, Sweden. She has a special interest in new forms of governance related to transparency and accountability. Her research spans studies of think tanks, corporate accountability, and flexibility and employability in work life.
Afshin Mehrpouya is Assistant Professor at HEC Paris, France. He studies the history of transparency and accountability and also the role of transparency in transnational governance. His research spans study of transnational regulation, rankings and socially responsible investments.