The purpose of this paper is to explore how accountability practices can enable sociopolitical emancipation.
The authors explore the emancipatory potential of accountability from a Bourdieusian perspective. The study is informed by a two-month socio-ethnographic study of the participatory budgeting (PB) process in Porto Alegre (Brazil). The field study enabled us to observe accountability and participatory practices, conduct 18 semi-structured interviews with councillors, and analyze survey data gathered from budgeting participants.
The paper demonstrates how PB both strengthened the dominants in the Porto Alegrense political field and changed the game played in this field; was characterized by accountability practices favouring the election of councillors with distinctive capitals, who were “dominated-dominants dominating the dominated”; brought emancipatory perspectives to councillors and, by doing so, opened the path to social change but also widened the gap with ordinary participants.
The research supports Shenkin and Coulson’s (2007) thesis by demonstrating that accountability, when associated with participative democracy, can create substantial social change. Significantly, by investigating the emancipatory potential of accountability, the authors challenge the often taken-for-granted assumption in critical research that accountability reinforces asymmetrical power relations, and the authors explore alternative accountability practices. Doing so enables us to rethink the possibilities of accountability and their practical implications.
The authors study the most emblematic example of participatory democracy in South America; and the authors use Bourdieu’s theoretical framework to approach accountability at a community level.
The authors ' names are listed in alphabetical order.
We would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers of this article, for having brought us through a very exciting intellectual journey. Also, we want to show appreciation to the guest editors of this issue, Professors Judy Brown, Jesse Dillard and Trevor Hopper, for their constant support.
An earlier version of this article was presented at the APIRA Conference in Kobe, Japan, in July 2013, where it was awarded the Broadbent and Laughlin emerging scholar award. We would like to thank Professors Jane Broadbent and Richard Laughlin for their confidence and for the energy this award gave us.
We would like to express our sincere gratitude to Professor Daniel Martinez for his intellectual contributions as well as for his moral and material support. We also thank Professor Sebastian Becker for his moral and material help, and Professors Alan Lowe and Afshin Mehrpuya for having discussed this paper respectively at the APIRA Conference and at the 3rd Global Conference on Transparency Research, in September 2013.
This work would not have been possible without the support given, during our fieldwork and the initial period of formulation of this research, in France by Professor Afrânio Garcia and the Centre for the studies of Colonial and Contemporary Brazil, from the EHESS (School for Advanced Studies in Social Sciences, Paris), and in Brazil by members of the NGO CIDADE and Professors Arlei Damo and Odaci Coradini, from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS).
This article also benefitted from the financial support of the HEC Foundation and of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Célérier, L. and Cuenca Botey, L.E. (2015), "Participatory budgeting at a community level in Porto Alegre: a Bourdieusian interpretation", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 28 No. 5, pp. 739-772. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAAJ-03-2013-1245Download as .RIS
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