Democratic Order, Autonomy and Accountability

Authored by: Johan P. Olsen

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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Over the last decades, there has been an increasing demand for making governments and public officials accountable, and radical reforms have been advocated. There are, however, competing claims about what is involved in demanding, rendering, assessing and responding to accounts, what are effective accountability institutions, and how accountability regimes emerge and change. Accountability is conceived as a precondition for democratic government, but accountability overload is seen to reduce performance and erode public trust in democratic government (Borowiak 2011; Dubnick 2011; Flinders 2011; Bovens et al. 2014). Some have faith in anticipation, namely that those acting on behalf of others are more likely to act in accordance with the interests of the represented when they have to account for conduct and results (Pitkin 1972: 58). Nevertheless, heavy criticism suggests that neither anticipation nor other accountability mechanisms work perfectly. Understanding accountability claims and processes requires a re-examination of what democratic accountability means and implies and the roles of citizens, elected representatives and non-elected officials. 2

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