• Mike SheaffEmail author


At a time of declining public trust in power-holders, wider concerns exist over both intrusions into personal privacy and excessive secrecy by those in authority. While privacy is frequently viewed positively, secrecy can generate suspicions of scandal or corruption. One difficulty is that concepts sometimes perceived as a binary divide—secrecy versus transparency or public versus private—possess more permeable and contested boundaries. The introductory chapter sets these issues in a context of organisational failures, using two examples involving child deaths to illustrate media and political approaches to framing responsibility. Referring to UK law on data protection and freedom of information, this introduction sets the scene for later chapters, introducing parallel tensions between privacy and transparency, and between personal responsibility and system failure.


Trust Responsibility Accountability Blame 


  1. Anderson, L. (2006). Analytic Autoethnography. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 35, 373–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Becker, H. (1967). Whose Side Are We On? Social Problems, 14(3), 234–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cabinet Office. (2018). Freedom of Information Statistics in Central Government for 2017. London: Cabinet Office.Google Scholar
  4. Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. (1998). Your Right to Know. White Paper. London: The Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  5. Department for Constitutional Affairs. (2006). Freedom of Information Annual Report 2005: Operation of the FOI Act in Central Government. London: Department for Constitutional Affairs.Google Scholar
  6. Department of Health. (2000). An Organisation with a Memory. London: Department of Health.Google Scholar
  7. Ellis, C. (1991). Sociological Introspection and Emotional Experience. Symbolic Interaction, 14(1), 23–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Francis, R. (2013). Report of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry. London: The Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  9. Gammell, C. (2008, December 8). Sharon Shoesmith Sacked After Baby P Scandal. The Daily Telegraph.Google Scholar
  10. Goffman, E. (1959/1990). The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  11. Halford, S., & Leonard, P. (2006). Place, Space and Time: Contextualizing Workplace Subjectivities. Organization Studies, 27(5), 657–676.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kelner, S. (2018, December 26). The Case of Paul Gait and Elaine Kirt Shows That the Rush to Judgement Can Make Morons of Us All. iNews.Google Scholar
  13. Letherby, G. (2013). Theorised Subjectivity. In G. Letherby, J. Scott, & M. Williams (Eds.), Objectivity and Subjectivity in Social Research. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Mills, C. W. (1959/2000). The Sociological Imagination. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Nader, L. (1969/1972). Up the Anthropologist: Perspectives Gained from Studying Up. In D. Hymes (Ed.), Reinventing Anthropology. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  16. Ramesh, R. (2011, August 2). Supreme Court Rejects Bid to Challenge Ruling on Sharon Shoesmith Sacking. The Guardian.Google Scholar
  17. Vallas, S. P., & Cummins, E. R. (2015). Personal Branding and Identity Norms in the Popular Business Press: Enterprise Culture in an Age of Precarity. Organization Studies, 36(3), 293–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Warner, J. (2015). The Emotional Politics of Social Work and Child Protection. Bristol: Policy Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Watson, T. J. (2008). Managing Identity: Identity Work, Personal Predicaments and Structural Circumstances. Organization, 15(1), 121–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Weintraub, J. (1997). The Theory and Politics of the Public/Private Distinction. In Weintraub and Kumar (Eds.).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Law, Criminology & GovernmentUniversity of PlymouthPlymouthUK

Personalised recommendations