Information is Power? Transparency and fetishism in International Relations

Fluck, M. and McCarthy, D.R. 2019. Information is Power? Transparency and fetishism in International Relations. Globalizations. 16 (1), pp. 1-16. doi:10.1080/14747731.2018.1507698

TitleInformation is Power? Transparency and fetishism in International Relations
TypeJournal article
AuthorsFluck, M.
McCarthy, D.R.
Abstract

International actors, state and non-state, have embraced transparency as a solution to all manner of political problems. Theoretical analyses of these processes present transparency in a fetishtic manner, in which the social relations that generate transparency are misrecognized as the product of information itself. This paper will outline the theoretical problems that arise when transparency promotion is fetishized in International Relations theory. Examining the fetishism of transparency, we will note problematic conception of politics, the public sphere, and rationality they articulate. Confusing the relationship between data, information and knowledge, fetishized treatments of transparency muddy the historical dynamics responsible for the emergence of transparency as a political practice. This alters our understanding of the relationship between global governance institutions, their constituents, and the nature of knowledge production itself. Realizing the normative promise of transparency requires a reorientation of theoretical practice towards sociologically and historically sensitive approaches to the politics of knowledge.

KeywordsTransparency, fetishism, International Relations, Critical Theory
JournalGlobalizations
Journal citation16 (1), pp. 1-16
ISSN1474-7731
Year2019
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1080/14747731.2018.1507698
Publication dates
Published19 Sep 2018
Published in print2019

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Accepted author manuscript
Under embargo until 19 Mar 2020

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