Accountability Relations in Unsettled Situations

Administrative reforms and crises

Authored by: Tom Christensen , Per Lægreid

The Routledge Handbook to Accountability and Welfare State Reforms in Europe

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781472470591
eBook ISBN: 9781315612713
Adobe ISBN: 9781317044208


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Accountability is often studied in stable situations where relationships between actors are rather clearly defined. In this chapter, however, we will examine multiple accountability relations in ambiguous and unsettled situations (Olsen 2013). In theoretical terms, we will argue for the need to go beyond instrumental perspectives in general or principal-agent models more specifically, and also adopt an institutional approach to understand how accountability plays out under such conditions. Rational top-down approaches have to be supplemented by approaches that take account of broader sociocultural processes, path-dependencies, symbols and contextual constraints. Conceptually, we follow the Utrecht school of accountability, with its focus on multiple accountability types (Bovens 2007). We ask who is accountable for what, to whom, when and why.

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