A Typology of Transparency: Freedom of Information in the United Kingdom

Research output: Contribution to conferenceUnpublished paper


In recent years, scholars have recognised the need for a ‘sociological turn’ in transparency research, one that takes a nuanced approach to understanding and identifying its meaning, potential, and limits. This marks a shift from the ‘romanticised’ view of transparency that uncritically presents transparency as the solution to a wide range of social, political, and economic problems. One of the central themes of this new body of ‘critical transparency scholarship’ is the relationship between transparency and neoliberalism.
This paper answers the call for a more nuanced understanding by analysing the historical development of open government within the United Kingdom. This analysis demonstrates that the transparency reforms that preceded the enactment of the UK’s freedom of information (FOI) laws were simultaneously motivated by democracy-enhancing and neoliberal aims. In doing so, it challenges the dominant narrative surrounding the UK’s FOI Acts (that they were introduced as New Labour’s antidote to ‘excessive’ government secrecy) and demonstrates the longstanding relationship between open government and neoliberal policies including privatisation and the marketisation of public services.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2022
EventGlobal Conference on Transparency Research - Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 18 May 202220 May 2022
Conference number: 7


ConferenceGlobal Conference on Transparency Research


  • Transparency
  • Neoliberalism
  • Freedom of information


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