chapter  1
14 Pages

A brief history of transparency’s entry into discourse

ByRachel Adams

The idea of transparency has evolved from a literal use in early cameras through to a metaphorical one in today’s notion of institutional openness. This chapter traces the diachronic rise of the transparency metaphor through a brief history of the concept. It draws on Michel Foucault’s notion of archaeology as an analytical framework to offer a critical history of the idea, and to begin to re-politicise a concept that is largely taken as universal and neutral. I return to the given history of transparency as an Enlightenment value and its subsequent alignment to human rights, and particularly freedom of expression and the right of access to information. One of the key historical moments of transparency explored here are the designs for the Palace of the League of Nations, where the metaphorical and literal meanings of transparency come together. The chapter then turns to critique the metaphor of transparency and how its metaphorical constructions supports its claims to truth and neutrality.