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Accountability discourses in advanced capitalism: who is now accountable to whom?

Miriam Green (Senior Lecturer at the London Metropolitan University, London, UK.)
Wim Vandekerckhove (Assistant Professor of Ethics at the Center for Ethics & Value Inquiry, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium.)
Dominique Bessire (Full Professor at the Laboratoire Orléanais de Gestion, Université d'Orléans, Orleans, France.)

Social Responsibility Journal

ISSN: 1747-1117

Article publication date: 7 March 2008




This paper aims to argue that the concept of “accountability” has changed and become perverted. Originally the concept meant answerability or the act of rendering an account. Those who were traditionally accountable were the powerful in organisations, public institutions and international bodies. The paper seeks point out that the notion of “accountability” has largely been emptied of its substance, as over the past few decades the concept of accountability has become perverted in discourse and in practice. The powerful are often no longer held accountable and are able to make those to whom they have hitherto been accountable, accountable to them instead.


The analysis is developed at the micro, meso and macro levels, through an analysis of the academic literature, in particular journals dealing with the interface between accounting and organisation studies.


It was found that what happens at the micro and meso levels becomes comprehensible when put into the context of the macro level. Instances of partial or reversed accountability in practice are pointed out and linked with insights from commentators in the fields of sociology and philosophy.


Concepts of accountability have become increasingly important in organisational discourse and practice over recent decades. This is particularly so given the importance now accorded to corporate governance and new public management. This paper is intended to formulate resistance to a particular discursive domination of corporate social responsibility. The paper is also new in the linking of this analysis with the argument that the weakening and reversal of accountability might be all‐pervasive in the current era of advanced capitalism and free market ideologies, and that the subversion of accountability is an instance of politically motivated hegemony.



Green, M., Vandekerckhove, W. and Bessire, D. (2008), "Accountability discourses in advanced capitalism: who is now accountable to whom?", Social Responsibility Journal, Vol. 4 No. 1/2, pp. 198-208.



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Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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