This is the question that has just fallen in the Sciences Po 2021 common competition. More precisely, the title was
“In light of your experiences and readings, do you think it is still possible to preserve secrecy today?“
So the first part of the question was a reminder of the importance of mobilizing knowledge, gained through experience or more likely through your revisions. It is therefore a useful incentive to build your essays with “solid ground” as we call it in our Method in Contemporary Issues article.
There were many possible outlines, and what we present here is only one of many possible ways to deal with the topic. Let us add that this question was basically similar to one of our mock exam on secrecy, “Is it still possible to have a private life?”This is why we find it interesting to refer to some of the proposals you may have made to enrich and diversify the correction.
But for the moment, let us move on to the correction:
The correction Academics in Politics: is it still possible to preserve the secret today?
Hook: there is no shortage of examples with all the scandals surrounding privacy on the internet. To be more original and to go directly into politics, we have chosen to talk about the WikiLeaks scandal, in order to show that even the States have difficulty preserving secrecy today.
Counterpoint: to confront this example, we would have recalled that the citizen is not in a position to know many of the secrets of States, particularly in the field of foreign affairs. The ultimate secret being perhaps the code of the nuclear bomb?
“Is it” → the classic format of a “yes or no” type subject;
“yet” → this word yet necessarily gives rise to a presupposition. In this case, the question takes for granted that the secret could be preserved before.
“possible” → on this kind of word, this is the time to make the question play, replacing in the draft with “necessary,” “allowed,” “materially possible”, etc.
“to preserve” → again, there is the presupposition that the secret can be preserved. Some would say that everything comes out in the end, but the question does not go that way. Moreover, there is a positive connotation: one preserves what is good (this is in line with Marie’s reflection in the comments on the perception of secrecy in her II.)
“the secret” → Definitions of the Secret
“today” → the temporal framework is given, one is not interested in what was done before, but only in the present (although the past can enlighten the present)
Paradox: the secret was perceived as an advantage for those who knew about it. Yet today, there is a tension between those who claim to make secrets fall, and those who want to keep them. Secrecy thus seems to become a weapon, which crystallizes a struggle for influence, on the one hand, towards the outside (international relations for example), but also towards the inside (State/citizen), and on many other levels: example parents/children, company/competitors, etc.
Issue: to what extent is secrecy, as a new object of the struggle of influence, a resource that can be safeguarded from external ambitions?
See also Alistair’s question that pinpoints the problem that we liked in the comments, which we will have to extend to secrecy in general (rather than privacy, which therefore concerns the citizen specifically).
Plan: We have chosen a dialectical outline (that of the Old Philosopher), rather classical, by varying the scales in the sub-parts.
I. Secrecy has become a powerful resource
A. As a state secret (State-State)
B. As power over citizens (State-citizen)
C. As an advantage over the other (citizen-citizen)
II. Secrecy is a coveted, and therefore threatened, war treasure
A. Secret services and intelligence services (State-State)
B. Privacy and liberties threatened in the name of security (citizen state)
C. The digital age makes the lives of citizens public (citizen-citizen).
III. As with weapons, the use of secrecy must be avoided and framed when necessary.
A. International conventions and agreements that frame secrecy (State-State)
B. The importance of a separation of powers at the top of the state to prevent abuse (citizen state)
C. The need to educate oneself on good practices to maintain control of one’s data (citizen-citizen)
Your correction: is it still possible to preserve secrecy today?
- What outline did you adopt?
- What problem did you find?
- What hook did you use?
- What references made you rely on?
- Are you satisfied with your work?
Also tell us on the practical side, how did this event go for you from a material standpoint?
- Did you notice any dysfunctions during the test, where you bothered by the late posting of the questions, for example?
- We are not linked to the Réseau Sciences Po, but what message would you send about the organization of this competition?
- What do you think of the conditions in which you took the exam?
We will perhaps make a selection of some of your comments to complete this correction, in order to help future Sciences Po candidates who will take the exam. We can already mention the very interesting ideas developed in two comments of the training subject that we had proposed to you: these are the references used by Mina (in particular De la liberté des Anciens comparée à celle des Modernes by Benjamin Constant), as well as the two outlines suggested by Anna which offer many leads, in particular on the aspect of new technologies. Here are also the correction to the Marseille study.
→ Correction on the Revolutions