Citizen duty or Stasi society? Whistleblowing and disclosure regimes in organizations and communities

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This paper argues that the concept of whistleblowing could best be understood as part of a larger regime of disclosure that includes personal revelations, truth-telling, leaking, informing, snitching and whistleblowing. Disclosure regimes are about knowledge that escapes. This paper discusses the conditions for this escaped knowledge and some of the consequences for organizations and communities. Two examples of disclosure regimes are provided: 1) the US Government’s financial rewards for whistleblowing, in which disclosed knowledge of company wrongdoing can be packaged for company sanctions and courtroom litigation; and 2) Scandinavian community informing programs where citizens can anonymously inform authorities of neighbours’ suspected welfare cheating or tax evasion. The examples of knowledge that escapes show disclosure regimes to be a field in which organizational or community loyalties confront employee/citizen duties, cultures of organizational/community solidarity and the ethos of non-interference/privacy. As new disclosure regimes and practices evolve, thanks to massive financial rewards, transparency encouragement and anonymous technologies, we will need to redefine what whistleblowing is all about. A focus on disclosure regimes can help reveal us the inner workings of organizations or communities, as knowledge managing groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
JournalEphemera: Theory and Politics in Organization
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Accepted for publication pending slight revisions. Article part of a special journal issue on Whistleblowing

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Social Anthropology

Free keywords

  • Social Anthropology
  • Whistleblowing
  • Transparency
  • Disclosure regimes
  • tax evasion
  • welfare benefits fraud
  • Informing Systems
  • ethics and compliance
  • Anti-corruption


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