International Handbook on Whistleblowing Research
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International Handbook on Whistleblowing Research

Edited by A. J. Brown, David Lewis, Richard E. Moberly and Wim Vandekerckhove

In the modern age of institutions, whistleblowing is now established as one of the most important processes – if not the single most important process – by which governments and corporations are kept accountable to the societies they are meant to serve. This essential Handbook provides researchers and policy makers from around the world with a comprehensive overview of the state of our knowledge regarding this vital process. In addition to drawing from the last 30 years of progressively more systematic research into whistleblowing, it also provides cutting-edge analysis of the conceptual and practical challenges that researchers will want to confront in the next decade.
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Chapter 2: Understandings of whistleblowing: Dilemmas of societal culture

Wim Vandekerckhove, Tina Uys, Michael T. Rehg and A.J. Brown


Is research into whistleblowing the same all over the world? Can we even say that ‘whistleblowing’ occurs all over the world, in every country or every society, in a way that is so similar that it can be researched everywhere the same way? The answer to these broad questions is almost certainly ‘no’. As discussed in Chapter 1, the term ‘whistleblowing’ itself has its own origins in particular societies and particular cultures, where there are many ways of understanding it, even before trying to cross into other languages and cultures. How the concept is perceived in different cultures is a crucial threshold question. Yet, at the same time there is good reason to believe that everywhere, in all societies, humanity functions using conceptions of right and wrong conduct. As social animals, humanity everywhere organizes itself in groups, and increasingly, in organizations and institutions, albeit in a myriad of ways and for different social, economic and political purposes. Whatever the mode of human organization, we know that the processes by which perceived wrongdoing comes to light and is dealt with are inherently important (for a definition of wrongdoing see Skivenes and Trygstad, Chapter 4). And so, we search for research approaches which acknowledge and explain the different ways that this occurs, in order to know whether or how the reporting or disclosure of wrongdoing is manifested, how it compares, what its implications are, and how it is best understood, encouraged or managed.

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