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.

Chapter 14: The Treadmill of Accountability

Magnus Boström and Christina Garsten

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


Magnus Boström and Christina Garsten As discussed in the introductory chapter, intensifying pressures for accountability are visible everywhere. There is a demand for more and greater accountability and many actors are willing to supply accountability tools. As calls for accountability have become transnational, they invoke challenges and solutions that are often at odds with the established territorial boundaries of state regulation. Organizations must now address accountability at a transnational level, and share and negotiate authority with other organizations. The transnational dimension also requires them to move beyond the territorially defined norms of accountability (cf. Mason 2005), which impose certain challenges in the organizing of accountability. In this concluding chapter, we introduce the notion of a treadmill of accountability, so called because accountability is often seen as turning and turning, yet remaining stationary – never getting to the root of the problem. The previous chapters in this book present various accountability tools and arrangements. Actors exercise these either because they are trying to make themselves accountable or they are trying to hold other actors accountable. Ambitions run high, but the performances aimed at meeting these expectations rarely do so. Accountability deficits and gaps appear. Disappointments lead to new attempts to fine-tune or establish tools or arrangements that are either competing or complementary. New formalizations lead to new imperfections, deficits and gaps – which in turn lead to even more new formalizations. The treadmill of accountability continues to turn and the literature on accountability develops its own treadmill. There is...

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