Department of Political Science

The politics of whistleblowing in digitalized societies

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Works on whistleblowing are overwhelmingly found within disciplines such as business ethics, law, and the professions. Despite its undeniable political and social effects, it is surprisingly understudied in political science and sociology. Recent cases such as those of Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, Christopher Wylie, and the Panama Papers should prompt political scientists and sociologists to engage systematically with the phenomenon. This article offers a theoretically driven discussion of three complementary questions. (1) What kind of political action is whistleblowing? (2) What are its historical, social, and political roots? (3) How is the practice shaped by digitalization and big data? In relation to the third question, the article argues that digitalization amplifies social complexity and challenges democratic steering. Building on Niklas Luhmann, Ulrich Beck, and Jeffrey Alexander, it lends theoretical weight to the argument that whistleblowers are likely to play an increasingly pronounced political role as digitalization accelerates.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPolitics & Society
Pages (from-to)277-297
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2019

    Research areas

  • Complexity, Critique, Democracy, Digitalization, Whistleblowing

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