Marco Bani (Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, Italy) and Gianluca Sgueo (University of Coimbra, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6248-3.ch009


“Transparency” is a term that many speculate about. According to scholars, transparency has three inter-related aims: first, to inform citizens in a simple and understandable way on the government's decisions; second, to foster civil society participation and engagement; and, third, to monitor and to prevent corruption. Notwithstanding these shared thoughts, much has to be done in liberal democracies. The European Commission estimates that corruption costs the EU economy roughly 120 billion EUR per year. The lack of transparency is both an economic and political problem, since corruption and opaque policies may develop degenerative forms of governance, which, in turn, lessens citizens' political participation and understanding on how the governmental machine functions. This “participative deficit” is common in many Western democracies. The notion of popular empowerment, the “core of democracy,” has been diluted to the point that most citizens exercise their putative sovereignty only through periodic elections of representatives and thus have extremely limited input into political processes. This deficit is further exacerbated by the fact that elected representatives in fact embody a range of competing “interests”—party, ideological, corporate—which may or may not coincide with those of the voter. This chapter explores a new concept of transparency.
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3. Social Interaction And Transparency

The use of social media, like Twitter and Facebook, is often used in Western democracies as evidence that the rulers and politicians have joined the network. Yet, for most of the time they just talk to their constituents rather than with them, avoiding to create any dynamics of participation. What is being offered by public institutions is just a glimpse into the places of power, where the private mingles with the public: a new political “voyeurism”, where the gossip is stronger than democracy.

On the contrary, transparency’s ultimate goal is a better accountability of government and politics as well as participation: a “public use” of transparency, “key feature of the democracy of the future” (Levy 2001) related to what Kant had theorized about the need for transparency in the public sphere. In this way the democratic system escapes the logic of the big lobbies, the influence of patronage, the special interests, and moves towards a transparent policy, intended by Foucault as a “kingdom of the opinion of all on all”.

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