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The limits of accountability

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  • Messner, Martin
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    Abstract

    Calls for greater accountability from managers and corporations are regularly voiced these days, both in the academic literature and in public discussions more generally. Specifically, it is often suggested that extant financial and management accounting practices embody a rather restricted form of accountability that falls short of our mutual responsibilities as more than economic subjects. Against this backdrop, this paper raises the question of whether more accountability is always and unambiguously desirable from an ethical point of view. It does so by inquiring into the limits that the accountable self faces when giving an account. Building upon the recent work of Judith Butler, the paper describes the accountable self as an opaque, exposed, and mediated self that is inherently limited in its ability to give an account of itself. Because of these limits, we cannot expect demands for accountability always to be fully met. The paper points to the ethical importance of recognizing this limited nature of accountability and outlines possible ramifications of this fact for practice.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Accounting, Organizations and Society.

    Volume (Year): 34 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 8 (November)
    Pages: 918-938

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:aosoci:v:34:y:2009:i:8:p:918-938

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/aos

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    References

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    1. Michael Jensen, 2001. "Value Maximisation, Stakeholder Theory, and the Corporate Objective Function," European Financial Management, European Financial Management Association, vol. 7(3), pages 297-317.
    2. Cooper, Stuart M. & Owen, David L., 2007. "Corporate social reporting and stakeholder accountability: The missing link," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 32(7-8), pages 649-667.
    3. Schweiker, William, 1993. "Accounting for ourselves: Accounting practice and the discourse of ethics," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 18(2-3), pages 231-252, April.
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    15. Lillis, Anne M., 2002. "Managing multiple dimensions of manufacturing performance -- an exploratory study," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 27(6), pages 497-529, August.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:
    1. Claudine Grisard, 2012. "Accountability and Bottom of the Pyramid projects: the two sides of the mirror," Post-Print hal-00690956, HAL.
    2. Grisard, Claudine, 2012. "Accountability and Bottom of the Pyramid projects: the two sides of the mirror," Economics Papers from University Paris Dauphine 123456789/9498, Paris Dauphine University.
    3. Gracia, Louise & Oats, Lynne, 2012. "Boundary work and tax regulation: A Bourdieusian view," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 37(5), pages 304-321.
    4. Vassili Joannides & Stéphane Jaumier, 2011. "Accounterability ou l'accountability par la bande," Grenoble Ecole de Management (Post-Print) hal-00645359, HAL.
    5. Vassili Joannides, 2011. "La gestion sans budget ou l'alignement de la finance sur la stratégie," Grenoble Ecole de Management (Post-Print) hal-00650532, HAL.
    6. Lambert, Caroline & Pezet, Eric, 2011. "The making of the management accountant - Becoming the producer of truthful knowledge," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 10-30, January.
    7. Vassili Joannides, 2012. "Accounterability and the problematics of accountability," Grenoble Ecole de Management (Post-Print) hal-00676561, HAL.
    8. Miguel Rivera-Santos & Carlos Rufín, 2010. "Odd Couples: Understanding the Governance of Firm–NGO Alliances," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 94(1), pages 55-70, July.
    9. Solomon, Jill F. & Solomon, Aris & Joseph, Nathan L. & Norton, Simon D., 2013. "Impression management, myth creation and fabrication in private social and environmental reporting: Insights from Erving Goffman," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 195-213.
    10. Rae André, 2012. "Assessing the Accountability of the Benefit Corporation: Will This New Gray Sector Organization Enhance Corporate Social Responsibility?," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 110(1), pages 133-150, September.

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