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Accounterability and the problematics of accountability

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  • Vassili Joannides

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    (GDF - Gestion, Droit et Finance - Grenoble École de Management (GEM))

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    Abstract

    This paper seeks to contribute to the emerging stream of literature on the problematics of accountability (Messner, 2009; Roberts, 2009; McKernan, 2011) and the possibilities of accounterability (Kamuf, 2007) by questioning whether and how accounterability can appear as a response to the problematics of accountability's operationalisation. To answer this question, this research considers the problematics of accountability found in the limits inherent to the giving of an account (Messner, 2009), in the ambiguous relationship between accountability and transparency (Roberts, 2009), and in the as yet unresolved contradictions of accountability (McKernan, 2011). Accounterability is seen as a practice of resisting accountability demands whilst giving an account. Alternative practices arising out of such resistance are inductively identified through an ethnographic study of the day-to-day practices of the Salvation Army used as an extreme case. This case shows how an ideal form of accountability raises more questions than it answers in practice, thereby leading individuals to develop their own counter-abilities. Because accountability to a Higher-Stakeholder appears to be an unreachable ideal, identifying to whom one should give an account of oneself becomes problematic. A working response to the problematics of accountability, accounterability emerges as the mechanism whereby the limits and contradictions of account giving are transformed into the conditions of its realisation: unreachable accountability is transformed into tangible day-to-day practices that may differ slightly from expected ideal conduct. It transpires from this study that the main strength of accountability lies in its ability to absorb and to override its limits and contradictions, transforming them into conditions of its possibility. As such, accounterability emerges as the ultimate manifestation of this strength.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by HAL in its series Grenoble Ecole de Management (Post-Print) with number hal-00676561.

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    Date of creation: 08 Jan 2012
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    Publication status: Published, Critical Perspectives On Accounting, 2012, in press, in press, 40 pages
    Handle: RePEc:hal:gemptp:hal-00676561

    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: http://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-00676561
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    Related research

    Keywords: accountability; accounterability; responsibility; reflexivity; resistance; the Salvation Army;

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

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    1. Paul M. Collier, 2008. "Stakeholder accountability: A field study of the implementation of a governance improvement plan," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 21(7), pages 933-954, September.
    2. Quattrone, Paolo, 2009. "Books to be practiced: Memory, the power of the visual, and the success of accounting," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 85-118, January.
    3. Sinclair, Amanda, 1995. "The chameleon of accountability: Forms and discourses," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 20(2-3), pages 219-237.
    4. Messner, Martin, 2009. "The limits of accountability," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 34(8), pages 918-938, November.
    5. Roberts, John, 1991. "The possibilities of accountability," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 355-368.
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