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No one is perfect: The limits of transparency and an ethic for 'intelligent' accountability

  • Roberts, John
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    This paper draws on the work of Butler [Butler, J. (2005). Giving an account of oneself. New York: Fordham University Press] to develop a critique of the operation and adequacy of transparency as a form of accountability. The paper begins with an exploration of accountability as subjection explored through Lacan's account of the social dynamics of recognition, and Freud's account of guilt. This analysis then informs an exploration of what is argued to be our typically ambivalent embrace of transparency as a form of accountability. The final section of the paper investigates the potential for a more 'intelligent' form of accountability, grounded in an ethic of humility and generosity, made possible by a conscious acknowledgement of the ways in which I can never quite know what it is that I am doing.

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

    Volume (Year): 34 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 8 (November)
    Pages: 957-970

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:aosoci:v:34:y:2009:i:8:p:957-970
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    1. Roberts, John & Sanderson, Paul & Barker, Richard & Hendry, John, 2006. "In the mirror of the market: The disciplinary effects of company/fund manager meetings," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 277-294, April.
    2. McKernan, John Francis, 2007. "Objectivity in accounting," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 32(1-2), pages 155-180.
    3. Christopher Hood, 2007. "What happens when transparency meets blame-avoidance?," Public Management Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(2), pages 191-210, June.
    4. Shearer, Teri, 2002. "Ethics and accountability: from the for-itself to the for-the-other," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 27(6), pages 541-573, August.
    5. Gray, Rob, 1992. "Accounting and environmentalism: An exploration of the challenge of gently accounting for accountability, transparency and sustainability," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 17(5), pages 399-425, July.
    6. Stuart Ogden & Keith W. Glaister & David Marginson, 2006. "Empowerment and Accountability: Evidence from the UK Privatized Water Industry," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(3), pages 521-555, 05.
    7. Chua, Wai Fong, 1995. "Experts, networks and inscriptions in the fabrication of accounting images: A story of the representation of three public hospitals," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 20(2-3), pages 111-145.
    8. Roberts, John & Jones, Megan, 2009. "Accounting for self interest in the credit crisis," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 34(6-7), pages 856-867, August.
    9. Roberts, John, 1991. "The possibilities of accountability," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 355-368.
    10. David Knights, 2003. "Governing through Teamwork: Reconstituting Subjectivity in a Call Centre," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(7), pages 1587-1619, November.
    11. Donald MacKenzie, 2006. "An Engine, Not a Camera: How Financial Models Shape Markets," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262134608, June.
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