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


  • Roberts, John


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Roberts, John, 2009. "No one is perfect: The limits of transparency and an ethic for 'intelligent' accountability," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 34(8), pages 957-970, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:aosoci:v:34:y:2009:i:8:p:957-970

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. McKernan, John Francis, 2007. "Objectivity in accounting," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 32(1-2), pages 155-180.
    2. 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.
    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. Roberts, John, 2001. "Corporate Governance and the Ethics of Narcissus," Business Ethics Quarterly, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(01), pages 109-127, January.
    5. 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, January.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. 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.
    9. Roberts, John, 1991. "The possibilities of accountability," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 355-368.
    10. repec:bla:joares:v::y:1972:i::p:156-182 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. 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.
    12. 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, May.
    13. 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.
    14. repec:bla:joares:v::y:1972:i::p:189-193 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Guénin-Paracini, Henri & Malsch, Bertrand & Paillé, Anne Marché, 2014. "Fear and risk in the audit process," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 264-288.
    2. Franck Aggeri & Morgane Le Breton, 2016. "The regulation of transparency in the field of CSR," Post-Print halshs-01368029, HAL.
    3. Alexandra Rausch & Alexander Brauneis, 2015. "It’s about how the task is set: the inclusion–exclusion effect and accountability in preprocessing management information," Central European Journal of Operations Research, Springer;Slovak Society for Operations Research;Hungarian Operational Research Society;Czech Society for Operations Research;Österr. Gesellschaft für Operations Research (ÖGOR);Slovenian Society Informatika - Section for Operational Research;Croatian Operational Research Society, vol. 23(2), pages 313-344, June.
    4. Mehrpouya, Afshin, 2015. "Instituting a transnational accountability regime: The case of Sovereign Wealth Funds and “GAPP”," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 15-36.
    5. Paolo RICCI, 2013. "What Future for Social Reporting and Accountability in Academic Systems. An Overview of the Italian Case," REVISTA DE MANAGEMENT COMPARAT INTERNATIONAL/REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL COMPARATIVE MANAGEMENT, Faculty of Management, Academy of Economic Studies, Bucharest, Romania, vol. 14(2), pages 202-221, May.
    6. Enrico Bracci, 2013. "Inter-Organizational Accountability and Budget Cut-Backs," Working Papers 2013152, University of Ferrara, Department of Economics.
    7. Cooper, Christine, 2015. "Entrepreneurs of the self: The development of management control since 1976," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 14-24.
    8. Lukas Goretzki, 2013. "Management accounting and the construction of the legitimate manager," Metrika: International Journal for Theoretical and Applied Statistics, Springer, vol. 23(4), pages 319-344, February.
    9. Marthinus Jacobus Botha & Sanlie. L. Middelberg, 2016. "Evaluating the Adequacy of Water-Related Reporting and Disclosure by High-Impact users in South Africa," Journal of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management (JEAPM), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 18(01), pages 1-20, March.
    10. Morgane Le Breton & Franck Aggeri, 2016. "The regulation of CSR by means of transparency standards," Post-Print hal-01368035, HAL.
    11. 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.
    12. Vassili Joannides & Stéphane Jaumier, 2011. "Accounterability ou l'accountability par la bande," Grenoble Ecole de Management (Post-Print) hal-00645359, HAL.
    13. Parker, Lee D., 2014. "Corporate social accountability through action: Contemporary insights from British industrial pioneers," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 39(8), pages 632-659.
    14. Paul Andon & Jane Baxter & Wai Fong Chua, 2015. "Accounting for Stakeholders and Making Accounting Useful," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(7), pages 986-1002, November.
    15. Killian, Sheila, 2015. "“For lack of accountability”: The logic of the price in Ireland’s Magdalen Laundries," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 17-32.

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