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Discreet Diplomacy

Practices of Secrecy in Transnational Think Tanks

Christina Garsten and Adrienne Sörbom

Abstract

This article aims to expand both the analytical gaze of diplomacy studies and anthropological interests in the field of transnational think tanks, advocacy and policy advice. Drawing on ethnographic data from three such organisations, it investigates secrecy practices, focussing on how such practices amount to discreet diplomatic efforts. In a variety of ways, secrecy is utilised as a resource in foreign relations and diplomacy; it is a means to leverage status and influence. Although outwardly striving for transparency, think tanks use secrecy practices in their effort to establish themselves as actors of consequence in foreign relations and diplomatic circles. The practices of secrecy are part and parcel of the power games such organisations play, in which all participants learn and master what to discuss and what to keep silent about. These practices, however, pose a clear challenge to matters of accountability and transparency.

Restricted access

Transparency and legibility in international institutions

The UN Global Compact and post‐political global ethics

Christina Garsten and Kerstin Jacobsson

The article examines the organisational production and distribution of normatively charged ideas for governing transnational business. Based on the United Nations Global Compact Initiative, it is argued that the UN version of ‘corporate social responsibility’ (CSR) builds on a metanarrative of rationality, involving ideals of transparency and legibility combined with an emphasis on consensus and harmony. The strong accent on partnership, agreement and dialogue leaves little space for the involved parties to articulate and defend diverging interests. By transforming what are basically political conflicts of interest into win–win terms, CSR standards and the technologies of transparency, legibility, and accountability foreclose conflictual space, and emerge as an instance of ‘post‐political global ethics’.

Free access

Neoliberal turns in higher education

Jakob Krause-Jensen and Christina Garsten

Over the past decades, higher education has been profoundly restructured across the world. With remarkable consistency educational reforms have been put forward that rest on a particular and similar rationale: to achieve global competitiveness and adapt to the advent of the so-called ‘knowledge economy’. The ramifications for universities have been dramatic: institutions have changed, roles of students and university employees have been re-defined and the concept of knowledge itself altered.