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Transparency, Internationalisation of a Private Standard

Asmara Klein
Sciences Po Paris
Asmara Klein
Sciences Po Paris
Open Panel

Abstract

Corruption has probably always existed but became only recently a problem worth fighting against, consequently to a framing process undertaken in the 1990''s. Within a few years, important international organisations integrated the anti-corruption fight into their action programmes with top-priority level on their agenda, forcing states and multinational corporations, to deal with it. This is how transparency, the counter-part to corruption, progressively emerged as a hegemonic narrative. Omnipresent nowadays, transparency is used in a wide variety of contexts and applies indifferently to public and private, national and international actors. Reassembling the systemic process which lead to the construction of transparency as a dominant normative and performative formula is essential not only to reval shifting power relations in the international system, but also to renew methodological approaches concerning international norms. Transparency is a good example for an entirely privatised norm : civil society organisations acted as transnational norm entrepreneurs redefining behaviors and practices ; before multilateral organisations, central hubs for international socialisation, took over. Furthermore, audit and consulting firms were crucial for the professional diffusion of transparency, allowing it to become incontrovertible for private corporations. Up until today, the disclosure of information remains an under-regulated field, from which state actors are relatively absent. Relevant questions to our research are the following : in the case of privatised normative processes, what specificities can be noticed ? What can they tell us about current power relationships in the international system? And how can a socio-historic process tracing, underpinned by a sociological assessment of interests and actor-identities, enrich a constructivist approach to international norms? My paper will focus, in particular, on international organisations and their « normative spinning function » : first as selection bodies, which turn peripheral narratives into central ones and second as dissemination agents, which interact with various international and transnational actors.