truth telling

The last decades have witnessed a substantial interest on whistleblowing among scholars, the press, and the public in general, and we have learned a great deal about the topic, particularly about its legal, moral, organizational, and work-related aspects. In my research, I examined the political facet of whistleblowing, as well as the political vision that the act of whistleblowing embodies and represents.

Rather than cover all forms of whistleblowing, my focus is on ‘truth-telling’, or, more exactly, ‘fearless speech,’ which is the disclosure of the illegal or morally wrong deeds or practices by powerful actors that result in harm to the public. This speech is fearless because, even though the wrongdoers are in a position to hurt the individual making the disclosure, he or she chooses to do it anyway. This is an act akin to ­parrhesia, a practice of truth-telling in ancient Greece.

In my research, which was supported by a grant of the Israeli Science Foundation (ISF), I pursued two lines of investigation. The first involved an analysis of the political, personal, legal, and cultural conditions and implications of truth-telling, specifically on how personal identity is being constituted.

The conclusion and general argument of this line of research are, that truth-telling or fearless speech is a practice that ensures that the principles and values advocated by liberal democracies are implemented in material life. while simultaneously creating a productive tension between the private sphere and the socio-political sphere. At the heart of this tension is the re-identification that truth-tellers/whistleblowers undergo as they travel through the process of the disclosure, from its initial uncertainties and subsequent upshot to the re-appropriation of speech that the act of truth-telling enables.

Truth-telling or whistleblowing as fearless speech is a micropolitical practice, and as such, does not have the same political effects as collective democratic action, such as voting, demonstrating, or going on strike, it nonetheless keeps liberal democracies vibrant.

Publications on the first line of investigation.

Mansbach, Abraham. 2011. “Drifting Away from Democracy: A Micropolitical Critique of the Relation between the ‘I’ and the ‘We.’ in Israel.” Israeli Studies Review 26(1): 130-145.

Mansbach, Abraham. 2011. “Whistleblowing as Fearless Speech: The Radical Democratic Effects of Late Modern Parrhesia,” in David Lewis and Wim Vandekerchove (eds.), Whistleblowing and Democratic Values, pp. 13-29. London: International Whistleblowing Research Network.

Mansbach, Abraham. 2010. “La Lógica de la Micropolítica,” Afinidades: Revista de Literatura y Pensamiento, 4, pp. 60-72.

Mansbach, Abraham. 2009. “Keeping Democracy Vibrant: Whistleblowing as Truth-Telling in the Workplace.” Constellations: An International Journal of Critical and Democratic Theory 16(3): 363-376.

Mansbach, Abraham. 2007. “The Political Surplus of Whistleblowing: A Case Study.” Business Ethics: A European Review 16(2): 124 –130.

The second line of investigation involved empirical research on the social-ethical dimension of truth-telling/whistleblowing acts. The focus was on care professionals in the fields of social work, nursing, and medicine, which are professional practices that, like whistleblowing, embody a strong social commitment.

Publications on the second line of investigation are:

Mansbach, Abraham, et. al. 2014. “Reporting Misconduct of a Co-worker to Protect a Patient,” The Scientific World Journal.

 Mansbach, Abraham, 2013. “Nursing Students’ Willingness to Blow the Whistle,” Nurse Education Today 33: 69-72.

Mansbach, Abraham,  2012. “Blowing the Whistle to Protect a Patient: A Comparison between Physical Therapy Students and Professionals,” Physiotherapy 98(4): 312-317.

Mansbach, Abraham, 2012. On the Readiness of Physical Therapists to Blow the Whistle to Protect the Patient’s Interests Italian Journal of Physiotherapy 2(4):128-34.

 Mansbach, Abraham & Bachner, Yaacov. 2010. “Internal or External Whistleblowing:  Nurses’ Willingness to Report Wrongdoing,” Nursing Ethics 17(4): 483-490.

Mansbach, Abraham, 2010.  “Physical Therapy Students’ Willingness to Report Misconduct to Protect the Patient’s Interests,” Journal of Medical Ethics 36(12): 802-805.

Mansbach, Abraham. & Bachner, Yaacov. 2009. “Self-Reported Likelihood of Whistleblowing by Social Work Students.” Social Work Education 8 (2): 18-28

Mansbach, Abraham & Bachner, Yaacov. 2008. “On the Readiness of Social Work Students to Blow the Whistle in Protection of Client’s Interests.” Journal of Social Work Ethics and Values, Fall.

Mansbach, Abraham & Bachner, Yaacov. 2007. “On Social Work and Whistleblowing.” Society and Welfare 27(4): 551-566.

Mansbach, Abraham & Kaufman, Roni. 2003. “Ethical Decision Making of Social Workers Associations: A Case Study of the Israeli Association of Social Worker’s Responses to Whistle Blowing.” International Social Work, 46:  303–312.

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