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Sörbom, A. & Garsten, C. (2023). Discreet Diplomacy: Practices of Secrecy in Transnational Think Tanks. The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology, 42(1), 98-117
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Discreet Diplomacy: Practices of Secrecy in Transnational Think Tanks
2023 (English)In: The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology, ISSN 2047-7716, Vol. 42, no 1, p. 98-117Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article aims to expand both the analytical gaze of diplomacy studies and anthropological interests in the field of transnational think tanks, advocacy and policy advice. Drawing on ethnographic data from three such organisations, itinvestigates secrecy practices within transnational think tanks, focusing on how everyday practices undertaken in secrecy amount to discreet diplomatic efforts. In a variety of ways, secrecy is utilised as a resource in foreign relations and diplomacy, thereby aiming to leverage status and influence. Although outwardly striving for transparency, secrecy practices are thus vital in the striving of transnational think tanks to establish themselves as actors of consequence in foreign relations and diplomatic circles. It is argued that practices of secrecy are part and parcel of the power games played, in which all participants learn and master what to discuss and what not to display. These practices, however, also imply a challenge in terms of accountability and transparency.  

Keywords
diplomacy, ethnography, power, secrecy, transnational think tanks
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology; Social Anthropology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-205524 (URN)10.3167/cja.2023.410108 (DOI)
Projects
Global Policy Brokers
Funder
Swedish Research Council
Available from: 2022-06-07 Created: 2022-06-07 Last updated: 2023-05-08Bibliographically approved
Sörbom, A. & Garsten, C. (2021). Discreet Diplomacy: Practices of Secrecy in Transnational Think Tanks. In: : . Paper presented at 14th Pan-European Conference on International Relations: The Power Politics on Nature, 13-17 September, 2021. Virtual Conference.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Discreet Diplomacy: Practices of Secrecy in Transnational Think Tanks
2021 (English)Conference paper, Published paper (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This paper studies secrecy practices within transnational think tanks. Drawing on ethnographic data from three such organisations, we explore how everyday practices undertaken in secrecy amount to discreet diplomatic efforts. We suggest that transnational think tanks should be understood as “shutter boxes” that engage in three types of secrecy practices: shadowed, hidden, and conspicuously shown. Although outwardly striving for transparency, secrecy practices are vital for transnational think tanks as they strive to establish themselves as actors of consequence in foreign relations and diplomatic circles. Practices of secrecy are part and parcel of the power game played by think tanks, in which all participants learn and master what to discuss and what not to display.

Keywords
Secrecy, transnational think tanks, diplomacy, ethnography, practices
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-199373 (URN)
Conference
14th Pan-European Conference on International Relations: The Power Politics on Nature, 13-17 September, 2021. Virtual Conference
Funder
Swedish Research Council
Note

EISA-2021 panel: Non-state actors as diplomatic actors

Available from: 2021-12-06 Created: 2021-12-06 Last updated: 2021-12-21
Garsten, C. & Sörbom, A. (2021). Discretionary Governance: Selection, Secrecy, and Status within the World Economic Forum. Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations, 27(4), 540-560
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Discretionary Governance: Selection, Secrecy, and Status within the World Economic Forum
2021 (English)In: Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations, ISSN 1075-2846, E-ISSN 1942-6720, Vol. 27, no 4, p. 540-560Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Built on the exclusive funding of 1,000 large transnational corporations, the World Economic Forum is a not-for-profit Swiss foundation, aiming to shape the direction of globalization. Its events are characterized by low degrees of formality and transparency. Research on what this organization does is scarce. This article suggests the term discretionary governance to capture the precarious, yet existing, social order that the organization shapes. By discretionary governance, we mean a set of discreet practices based on the organization’s judgement in ways that escape established democratic controls. Drawing on ethnographic data the paper demonstrates how selection, secrecy, and status form key components of this tenuous ordering. Selection processes and secrecy contribute to status elevation of the individuals and organizations chosen to participate. Upon them and the organization itself is bestowed a symbolic capital that is practical and possibly profitable in the world of global governance.

Keywords
discretionary governance, symbolic capital, status, secrecy, selection
National Category
Political Science Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-201255 (URN)10.1163/19426720-02704006 (DOI)000733604400004 ()2-s2.0-85122404739 (Scopus ID)
Funder
Swedish Research Council
Available from: 2022-01-25 Created: 2022-01-25 Last updated: 2022-04-13Bibliographically approved
Sörbom, A. & Garsten, C. (2021). Future Fears: Anticipation and the Politics of Emotion in the Future Industry. Culture Unbound. Journal of Current Cultural Research, 13(3), 1-25
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Future Fears: Anticipation and the Politics of Emotion in the Future Industry
2021 (English)In: Culture Unbound. Journal of Current Cultural Research, ISSN 2000-1525, E-ISSN 2000-1525, Vol. 13, no 3, p. 1-25Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper is based on ethnographic work in organizations that form part of what we term the Future Industry – e.g. think tanks, consultancies and governmental bodies – involved in the charting, description and analysis of future scenarios. That is to say, an industry explicitly aiming for organizing the future. In the paper we analyze this industry, which we see as serving and feeding into, the emotional streams of contemporary politics and economics. In the interest of selling beliefs of the future, we suggest that it attempts to make its customers sense the pros and cons of the particular future it puts forth. The paper argues that the mapping and selling of futures to a large extent involves the voicing of “problems” and the presentation of “desirable futures”, the cultivation, articulation and management of fear, anxiety, and hope, as well as a reliance on metrics, reason, and evidence, are central components.

Keywords
Antication, foresight, industry, politics, emotion, consultancy
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-199370 (URN)10.3384/cu.3367 (DOI)2-s2.0-85124961669 (Scopus ID)
Projects
Global Foresight: Anticipatory Governance and the Making of Geo-Cultural Scenarios
Funder
Riksbankens Jubileumsfond
Available from: 2021-12-06 Created: 2021-12-06 Last updated: 2022-04-13Bibliographically approved
Garsten, C. & Sörbom, A. (2019). An organized network: World Economic Forum and the partial organizing of global agendas. In: Göran Ahrne, Nils Brunsson (Ed.), Organization outside organizations: The abundance of partial organization in social life (pp. 212-234). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press
Open this publication in new window or tab >>An organized network: World Economic Forum and the partial organizing of global agendas
2019 (English)In: Organization outside organizations: The abundance of partial organization in social life / [ed] Göran Ahrne, Nils Brunsson, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2019, p. 212-234Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This chapter answers the question of how the World Economic Fourm (WEF) constructs authority for itself in the global arena by studying the form of political action that the WEF draws upon. We argue that it constructs authority beyond itself through turning some participants from its many events into a form of members, thus partially organizing its environment. Participants at WEF activities, as well as WEF staff, would call this order a ‘network’. We acknowledge the network aspects of this order, but argue that it is foremost based on organization; it is a decided order, based on decisions taken within the WEF. Empirically, the chapter builds on interview data within Geneva staff and participants at WEF activities.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2019
Keywords
World Economic Forum, network, membership, monitoring, authority, organization, decision
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Research subject
Social Anthropology; Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-178963 (URN)10.1017/9781108604994.010 (DOI)9781108474986 (ISBN)9781108604994 (ISBN)
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2010-12569-76610-69
Available from: 2020-02-10 Created: 2020-02-10 Last updated: 2022-02-26Bibliographically approved
Garsten, C. (2019). Förförande framtider: antropologiska perspektiv på global styrning. In: Sven Engström, Sven Hort (Ed.), Om Bo Rothstein: forskaren, debattören, livsnjutaren. Lund: Arkiv förlag & tidskrift
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Förförande framtider: antropologiska perspektiv på global styrning
2019 (Swedish)In: Om Bo Rothstein: forskaren, debattören, livsnjutaren / [ed] Sven Engström, Sven Hort, Lund: Arkiv förlag & tidskrift, 2019Chapter in book (Other academic)
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Lund: Arkiv förlag & tidskrift, 2019
National Category
Social Anthropology
Research subject
Social Anthropology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-178964 (URN)9789179243302 (ISBN)
Available from: 2020-02-10 Created: 2020-02-10 Last updated: 2022-02-26Bibliographically approved
Garsten, C. & Sörbom, A. (2019). His Master’s Voice? Conceptualizing the relationship between business and the World Economic Forum. Journal of Business Anthropology, 8(1), 41-62
Open this publication in new window or tab >>His Master’s Voice? Conceptualizing the relationship between business and the World Economic Forum
2019 (English)In: Journal of Business Anthropology, E-ISSN 2245-4217, Vol. 8, no 1, p. 41-62Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Commonly, the relationship between corporations and non-for profit organizations, such as foundations, think tanks and private research institutes, is analyzed in terms suggesting that when acting as funders corporations set the frames for the non-for profit organization who, in turn, not only mimics but also serves as to broadcast the views of its funder. Drawing on the case of the Swizz based foundation/think tank World Economic Forum and its corporate funders we scrutinize this relationship. We show that as an organization interested in global policy making it is of vital importance for the Forum to construct its own agency, not merely giving voice to its funder’s views, and that it will do so drawing on the resources that the funders provide. Moreover, we submit that as organizations all partaking actors will endeavor to construct their own agency, oftentimes by drawing on the resources of others. In so doing, actors may have both overlapping and divergent interests. Evoking the Lévi-Strauss concept of the bricoleur, we analyze how the various and multifaceted priorities of corporations will not only be filtered by the Form, but it will also make use of the resources at hand for organizing forth own policy messages. The result is a complex and dynamic web of actors and voices.

Keywords
corporations, funding, think tanks, agency, World Economic Forum
National Category
Social Anthropology
Research subject
Social Anthropology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-178959 (URN)10.22439/jba.v8i1.5715 (DOI)
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2010-12569-76610-69
Available from: 2020-02-10 Created: 2020-02-10 Last updated: 2023-11-21Bibliographically approved
Garsten, C., Rothstein, B. & Svallfors, S. (2018). De policyprofessionella: En okänd politisk elit?. In: Bengt Eriksson, Mikael Holmqvist, Lena Sohl (Ed.), Eliter i Sverige: tvärvetenskapliga perspektiv på makt, status och klass (pp. 275-308). Lund: Studentlitteratur AB
Open this publication in new window or tab >>De policyprofessionella: En okänd politisk elit?
2018 (Swedish)In: Eliter i Sverige: tvärvetenskapliga perspektiv på makt, status och klass / [ed] Bengt Eriksson, Mikael Holmqvist, Lena Sohl, Lund: Studentlitteratur AB, 2018, p. 275-308Chapter in book (Other academic)
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Lund: Studentlitteratur AB, 2018
National Category
Social Anthropology
Research subject
Sociology; Political Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-178965 (URN)9789144116365 (ISBN)
Funder
Swedish Research CouncilWallenberg Foundations
Available from: 2020-02-10 Created: 2020-02-10 Last updated: 2022-02-26Bibliographically approved
Garsten, C. & Sörbom, A. (2018). Discreet power: how the World Economic Forum shapes market agendas. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Discreet power: how the World Economic Forum shapes market agendas
2018 (English)Book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In Discreet Power, Christina Garsten and Adrienne Sörbom undertake an ethnographic study of the World Economic Forum (WEF). Accessing one of the primary agenda-setting organizations of our day, they draw on interviews and participant observation to examine how the WEF wields its influence. They situate the WEF within an emerging system of "discretionary governance," in which actors craft ideas and entice formal authorities and top leaders in order to garner significant sway. Yet in spite of its image as a powerful, exclusive brain trust, the WEF has no formal mandate to implement its positions. It must convince others to advance chosen causes and enact suggestions, rendering its position quite fragile.

Garsten and Sörbom argue that the WEF must be viewed relationally as a brokering organization that lives between the market and political spheres and that extends its reach through associated individuals and groups. They place the WEF in the context of a broader shift, arguing that while this type of governance opens up novel ways of dealing with urgent global problems, it challenges core democratic values.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2018. p. 224
Series
Emerging frontiers in the global economy
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Social Anthropology; Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-178961 (URN)9780804794145 (ISBN)9781503606043 (ISBN)9781503606050 (ISBN)
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2010-12569-76610-69
Available from: 2020-02-10 Created: 2020-02-10 Last updated: 2022-02-26Bibliographically approved
Garsten, C. (2018). Förförande framtider: Antropologiska perspektiv på global styrning. In: Årsbok 2018: Kungl. Vetenskaps-societeten i Uppsala (pp. 51-59). Uppsala: Kungl. Vetenskaps-societeten i Uppsala
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Förförande framtider: Antropologiska perspektiv på global styrning
2018 (Swedish)In: Årsbok 2018: Kungl. Vetenskaps-societeten i Uppsala, Uppsala: Kungl. Vetenskaps-societeten i Uppsala , 2018, p. 51-59Chapter in book (Other academic)
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Kungl. Vetenskaps-societeten i Uppsala, 2018
Series
Årsbok / Kungl. Vetenskaps-societeten i Uppsala, ISSN 0348-7849
National Category
Social Anthropology
Research subject
Social Anthropology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-180249 (URN)
Available from: 2020-03-24 Created: 2020-03-24 Last updated: 2022-02-26Bibliographically approved
Projects
Climate Change Governance and Private Diplomacy: Interventions from Nordic Corporate Funded Think Tanks [2022-00863_Formas]; Södertörn University
Organisations
Identifiers
ORCID iD: ORCID iD iconorcid.org/0000-0002-1652-631x

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