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Call for papers: Research in Social Problems and Public Policy

Government Secrecy

Research in Social Problems and Public Policy (Volume 19, 2011)
Volume Editor: Susan L. Maret PhD, San José State University

Research in Social Problems and Public Policy (RSPPP) is a peer-reviewed book series whose focus is on the analysis of the "potential failure of public institutions to fulfill their obligations to the broader society."

For Volume 19, RSPPP seeks papers devoted to the problem of government secrecy. Government Secrecy (GS) is a significant social, political, and policy issue and often presents as a barrier to civic participation, public right-to-know, historical understanding, and institutional accountability.

In this edition of RSPPP, we investigate government secrecy in terms of its current theoretical descriptions as power over and concealment of information (Bok, 1983), a "tampering of communications" (Friedrich, 1972), the "compulsory withholding of knowledge, reinforced by the prospects of sanctions for disclosure" (Shils, 1956), or Georg Simmel's (1906) idea of secrecy as creating the "possibility of a second world." Also acting as a potential philosophical foundation for this edition of RSPPP are the functional-dysfunctional approaches to government secrecy (Friedrich, 1972), cases where secrecy may illustrate Simmel's (1906) positive-negative approach, the critical aspects of "necessary secrets" (Maret and Goldman, 2008), and "democratic secrecy" (Thompson, 1999).

Papers addressing the theme of government secrecy in any place-based setting are acceptable, but of particular interest in Volume 19 is original scholarship regarding government control of information and those factors that promote government secrecy focusing on Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Mexico, Central and South America, the EU, intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), or are comparative in nature with the USA, investigating, for example, the concept of secrecy as a form of regulation and "parallel government", as suggested by the 1997 Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy (the Moynihan Commission).

Welcome are new perspectives that explore definitions and types of secrecy (biotechnology, environmental, financial, judicial, military, intelligence, or trade secrecy, for example) and secrecy's relations with censorship, information ethics, national security, propaganda, executive privilege, intellectual property, and security classification of information, as well as those institutional, organizational, political, and regulatory mechanisms that enable and encourage government secrecy and support the overall theme of RSPPP of examining subjects "that lie at the confluence of 'social problems' and 'public policy'".

Manuscript submission

Submissions and enquiries should be sent to the Guest Editor:

Susan L. Maret PhD


Bok, S. (1983) Secrets: On the Ethics of Concealment and Revelation, Vintage Books, New York, NY.

Friedrich, C.J. (1972), The Pathology of Politics: Violence, Betrayal, Corruption, Secrecy and Propaganda, Harper & Row, New York, NY.

Maret, S. and Goldman, J. (Eds) (2008), Government Secrecy: Classic and Contemporary Readings, Libraries Unlimited, Westport, CT.

Shils, E. (1956), The Torment of Secrecy, Free Press, Glencoe, IL.

Simmel, G. (1906), "The sociology of secrecy and of secret societies", American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 11 No. 4, pp. 441-98.

Thompson, D. (1999), "Democratic secrecy", Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 114 No. 2, pp.181-93.