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Toward a Sociology of Secrecy and Security Systems

Ritchie P. Lowry
Social Problems
Vol. 19, No. 4 (Spring, 1972), pp. 437-450
DOI: 10.2307/799923
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/799923
Page Count: 14
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Toward a Sociology of Secrecy and Security Systems
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Abstract

Secrecy has become a major characteristic of most modern public and private organizations, partly as a result of bureaucratization and democratization and subsequent organizational dependence upon manipulation and persuasion. Though security and secrecy systems are seen as indispensable to the efficient functioning of modern organizations, they contain the seeds of their own destruction. Leaders utilize privileged information for self-enhancement purposes. Required information is denied within and between agencies. Secrecy systems take on latent functions leading to the protection of relatively useless and unreliable knowledge. The producers of such knowledge thereby maintain job security, and security systems become increasingly involved in matters of sensitivity. Analysis of these dysfunctions within the context of security conscious, military supported think-tanks suggests that secrecy functions to undermine the purposes for which it is utilized. Serious question, therefore, must be raised about the maintenance of secrecy systems in any form, and where they are necessary for obvious security purposes, about their modification and control.

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