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Resumen: The amazing charm of transparency in recent political debates is almost unexpected. It became a catchword ready to be used in any kind of situation, perhaps because of its potential to produce legitimacy even in times of weak ideological commitments. In its developments, transparency is more than a simple specification of the principle of publicity. It is deemed to be the best remedy for economic inefficiency, but also the best device to improve the political system and its performances, preventing corruption and struggling with public disaffection. Nevertheless, contrary to the most optimistic outlooks, these different objectives are at least partially divergent. The hypothesis of this paper is that the pursuit of transparency could have unexpected side effects, threatening the social bases of a democratic public sphere. The work considers some exemplary situations in which transparency tends to become inconsistent and then explores its backgrounds, proposing an outline of its conceptual genealogy. Transparency is usually presented as therapy to the opaqueness of human behaviour, which is supposed to hinder the achievement of justice. There are two classic texts in which the game of transparent vision shows its political implications: the platonic version of the myth of Gyges, the shepherd who found a magic ring that allowed his owner to escape from the others’ gaze (Rep. 358/60); and the analogy, also mentioned by Plato, between the theatre and the agora, that shows how people get lost and blind when they become indifferent to the laws of rhythm and music (Leg. 700/1). We can illustrate the philosophical genealogy of transparency, including conventional ideals of open society and the market of ideas, as a succession of attempts to circumvent these Platonic challenges. The modest conclusion of this historical panorama is that there is no single answer to the evils of opacity. Then, going back to the present, I suggest that standard invocations to transparency should be managed with caution. In particular, an ambiguous claim of transparency inspires many recent utopias of the network-society, where it is taken as a mere synonym of democracy. The aim of this article is to offer some reasons to be wary of such kind of advices.
Palabras clave: Transparency. Public Sphere. Theory of democracy. Open society. Marketplace of Ideas.