Purpose – Transparency is assumed to improve markets' efficiency, to enhance better corporate governance and finally, to ensure moralisation of business life. The paper aims to the realities that prevailing discourses on transparency dissimulate. Design/methodology/approach – First, a genealogical method is used to explore the theoretical roots, which underpin claims for a greater transparency (reduction of information asymmetry in academic discourses). Second, the analogies between mainstream theories on corporate governance (which legitimate the demand for transparency) and the Panopticon, the famous architecture conceived by Bentham are pinpointed. Finally, the reflections developed by philosophers such as Ricoeur and Henriot on ethics are exploited to explain why transparency is unable to produce the expected effects. Findings – First, discourses on transparency often conceal reinsurance manœuvres and power struggles. Second, transparency appears as a modernised manifestation of panopticism: a common base (the concept of utility), the same fundamental assumption (the opportunistic nature of man) and a similar answer (discipline). More generally, panopticism and discourses on transparency are embedded in the same utilitarian philosophy which does not grant any space either for responsibility or for ethics and therefore, favours generalised amorality. Research limitations/implications – As a consequence it is suggested that one should explore the possibility of elaborating an economics theory, which would get rid of the concept of utility and a theory of the enterprise, which would take as key concepts creativity and trust, instead of opportunism. Originality/value – Through the deconstruction of prevailing discourses on transparency, the paper points to the intrinsic anti-humanistic character of mainstream economics and organisation theories and suggests alternative issues. It therefore may contribute to both enlightenment and emancipatory aims (in the Habermasian sense).
Corporate governance, Ethics, Open management, Trust, Utility programs
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