Transparency: Negotiating Institutional Domains
Transparency over the last decade has entrenched itself within political discourse as a kind of universal good that is both an instrumental means to a number of positive outcomes (such as improved trust or accountability) and an end in itself (Meijer 2013). It is, moreover, an idea that is universally supported across the political spectrum as a means of opening up institutions to public scrutiny (Birchall 2014). Underneath this acceptance, transparency can be many things. Darch and Underwood describe it as an ‘ideologically determined political initiative that can be deployed to achieve a range of different agendas’ (2010, 49:7). The exact dynamics and divisions vary from country to country and area to area. Transparency resembles democracy itself, with a general consensus on the concept, but with its interpretation ‘open to complexity, contradiction and numerous varieties’: It is in some senses an ‘empty signifier’ that can be ‘filled’ by very different interpretations or emphasis (Stubbs and Snell 2014, 160).
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