At the intersection of IR theory and sociology, the aim of this course is to address the following questions:

  • Can we really speak of a “decline” or “crisis” of secrecy, in the sense of a loss of legitimacy, at the global level?
  • What are the reactions typically provoked by the disclosure of sensitive/classified information?
  • How can we account for differences in reactions and responses within and across countries?
  • What does it tell us about the evolution of the international order?


Underpinning this line of questioning are issues concerning the meaning and scope of the current normative dynamic(s) at work in international relations.


The course is organized in three sections. The first will introduce students to the main sociological, political and historical debates about secrecy and transparency. The second section focusses on the notion of revelation from a theoretical standpoint, delving into a typology of existing practices of disclosure and exposure in international politics – and assessing their possible effects and consequences. Finally, the third section will be dedicated to the study of France and the United States, with the aim of comparing the two countries’ secrecy apparatus and exploring their reactions to diverse cases of leaking and whistleblowing.