To read this content please select one of the options below:

“Open secrets”: The masked dynamics of ethical failures and administrative evil

Government Secrecy

ISBN: 978-0-85724-389-8, eISBN: 978-0-85724-390-4

Publication date: 26 January 2011


In contemporary, complex organizations, “open secrets” may be just as common as intentionally concealed secrets, and are often associated with ethical failures and administrative evil. This chapter explores the ethical implications of open secrets in contemporary organizations and the dynamics by which they can become masked. Both the space shuttle Challenger disaster and Enron's corporate collapse, as well as other similar ethical debacles, show how organizational actors at all levels can promote the public interest and recognize ethical issues, only if they require of themselves a broader scope of ethical standards and vigilance that addresses not just individual behavior but also, and even primarily, the organizational and cultural context of values and ethics. The evolution of a moral vacuum within a culture of technical rationality and the resulting ethically deficient organizational dynamics produced the inability to recognize the open secrets that masked the pathway to disaster.



Adams, G.B. and Balfour, D.L. (2011), "“Open secrets”: The masked dynamics of ethical failures and administrative evil", Maret, S. (Ed.) Government Secrecy (Research in Social Problems and Public Policy, Vol. 19), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 403-419.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited