The notion of transparency is widely used as an analytical tool and as a guideline to propose and enforce new configurations of economic life. Focusing on several transparency-making devices, this paper tries to explore both the pervasiveness of this notion and its ambivalence in a number of relevant sites. We begin by exploring the deployment of transparency in the economic literature at large. We identify three thematic areas, namely, markets and price discovery, corporate management and institutional investors, and state regulations and economic policy. We then tackle these three areas of meaning through three brief case studies: (1) transparency and anonymity in the context of exchange automation, (2) ballot statement controversies in the light of corporate governance principles and (3) the use of transparency at state level in the context of the EU financial regulation. In the concluding section, we try to condense our findings into a tentative typology. We point to an important, yet not always explicit distinction between ‘literal' transparency and ‘abstract' transparency, and we observe combinations between ‘disciplinary' and ‘enabling' uses of transparency-making devices. These articulations of transparency, we suggest, are central to the development of new instruments of government.
Analyses the ambiguity of a number of transparency-making devices in economic and financial life.
Transparency, economic sociology, governmentality, stock exchange, pension funds, European Union
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