Organizing Transnational Accountability

Organizing Transnational Accountability

Edited by Magnus Boström and Christina Garsten

This book adds a multi-disciplinary organizational perspective to the theoretical analysis of political accountability and argues for a broadening of the conventional understanding of the concepts of responsibility and accountability.


Michael Power

Subjects: business and management, corporate social responsibility, organisation studies, environment, corporate social responsibility, environmental sociology


It is conventional to attribute the explosion of interest in accountability, both scholarly and practical, to the growing empowerment of new groups, the rise of human rights and increasing consumerist confidence in advanced economies. In the post Enron world leaders of all kinds are now under suspicion, almost guilty until proven innocent, and an active media has created new reputational anxieties for a wide variety of organizations under pressure to account for their activities in areas such as corporate social responsibility, governance and financial propriety, and security and risk management. Yet, despite this expanded interest in accountability, there seems to be no obvious consensus about what it is. Accountability is sought, resisted, disputed, is deficient, fails, disappoints, and is then sought again despite the fact that it proves difficult to define clearly and univocally. And it seems as if this ambiguity of the concept has been important to its elevation as part of a moral vocabulary for organizations and individuals. Values and norms like accountability are often discussed as if they had a life of their own, operating at the ideational level of moral and political philosophy. Here the analytical imperative is to get definitions of terms as clear as possible before the last resort of concluding that they may be ‘essentially contestable’. A contrasting approach begins from the fact that values are embedded and expressed in material practices. Such an approach avoids, at least temporarily, the problem of definitions by attending to the...