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Shackling Leviathan: a comparative historical study of institutions and the adoption of freedom of information

McClean, Tom (2011) Shackling Leviathan: a comparative historical study of institutions and the adoption of freedom of information. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This thesis is about the origins and development of freedom of information laws. The number of countries with these laws has risen dramatically in recent decades, and now stands at around ninety. This is widely taken as evidence that governments across the world are converging in their institutional arrangements because they face similar challenges and demands. Access to information is increasingly claimed to be a human right, essential to the effective functioning of democracy and fundamental to legitimate public administration in the information age. This thesis seeks to challenge this assumed causal homogeneity by explaining why countries in which these principles were well-entrenched legislated at different times. The explanation offered here emphasises institutions: the manner in which important political actors are organised, and the structure of authority and accountability relations between them. It shows that differences in these institutional arrangements meant access laws were introduced at different times in different countries because they were introduced for different reasons and in response to different pressures. It supports these claims by conducting a comparative historical study of freedom of information in Sweden, the USA, France, the UK and Germany. This thesis contributes to empirically-oriented scholarship on a prominent aspect of contemporary government. It provides a framework for further rigorous comparative scholarship. It also provides detailed accounts of how access developed in two countries which have not received much attention in English-language scholarship, France and Germany, and original insights into three others about which more has been written. Whether one is interested in improving actually-existing laws or understanding democratic government in the information age, this study is valuable because it complements visions of why transparency laws are desirable with historically-informed comparative knowledge about why they are introduced at all.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2011 Tom McClean
Library of Congress subject classification: K Law > K Law (General)
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Supervisor: Archer, Robin

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