Governing governments?

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In a world of controversy and suspicion, transparency promises a ‘virtuouschain’ of informed citizens, rational deliberation and democratic participation.In contrast, this essay conceptualises transparency as a Foucauldian dispositif:a network of discourse, tactics, institutional processes and local subjectivitieswhich articulates what kinds of actions and statements are admissible and tacticallyprofitable. Notably, transparency discourse mobilises individual citizensto audit the state – to govern governments. This becomes the basis upon whichthe state and other institutions may legitimise and delegitimise one anotherthrough strategic uses of transparency discourse. We illustrate these processesthrough an examination of the ‘Séralini Affair’: a prominent controversy overGMO, scientific expertise and transparency in France. We analyse transparencydiscourse invoked by major stakeholders in the Affair, drawing tools from criticaldiscourse analysis and French discourse analysis.


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