Dissecting the Semantics of Accountability and Its Misuse

Paanakker, H.L, Masters, A and Huberts, L.(eds) Quality of Governance: Values and Violations, Palgrave Macmillan, 2019 Forthcoming

Queen's University Belfast Law Research Paper No. 2016 06

32 Pages Posted: 20 Jan 2019 Last revised: 2 Apr 2019

See all articles by Melvin Dubnick

Melvin Dubnick

University of New Hampshire

Ciarán O'Kelly

Queen's University Belfast - School of Law

Date Written: January 11, 2019

Abstract

We focus on Mark Bovens’s use of the forum metaphor in his accountability model. The forum metaphor has emerged as a fundamental component in accountability’s status as a ‘cultural keyword’, reflecting its extension into the political rhetoric and everyday language of our time. People do not imagine value in governance directly, through observation. They construct it through metaphorical language and, when it comes to how the underlying decision-making processes are described, Bovens’s work is at the fore.

Contra Bovens, we argue that his relational perspective could be taken much further. We advocate instead a far broader and more fundamental engagement with the idea of relational accountability. Expanding the metaphors, we point to two other accountability spaces: ‘agora,’ a primordial accountability space and ‘bazaar’, an emergent accountability space rooted in ground-level exchange between different actors. Assertions about ‘unaccountability,’ we argue, very often reflect a failure to appreciate the fundamentally relational nature of accountability: those who use such assertions as bases for action aimed at making situations, processes or people ‘more accountable’ in fact seek to assert or impose a certain form of relationship – one that is hierarchical and monopolistic – and reflect therefore a drive to power and domination.

Keywords: metaphor, accountability, public administration

Suggested Citation

Dubnick, Melvin and O'Kelly, Ciarán, Dissecting the Semantics of Accountability and Its Misuse (January 11, 2019). Paanakker, H.L, Masters, A and Huberts, L.(eds) Quality of Governance: Values and Violations, Palgrave Macmillan, 2019 Forthcoming; Queen's University Belfast Law Research Paper No. 2016 06. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3314034

Melvin Dubnick

University of New Hampshire ( email )

20 Academic Way
Horton Hall
Durham, NH 03824
United States

HOME PAGE: http://mjdubnick.dubnick.net

Ciarán O'Kelly (Contact Author)

Queen's University Belfast - School of Law ( email )

School of Law
Belfast BT7 1NN, BT7 1NN
Ireland

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