"Accounting for Accountability," with Jonathan Justice, paper prepared for presentation at the American Political Science Association meetings, Chicago, IL, September 2-5, 2004.
Accountability is often presented as a means by which to achieve the collective and individual goods of democracy, justice, administrative performance, and ethical conduct in governance. Treating this presumption as a collection of testable hypotheses rather than as a self- evident truth leads to an interest in operationalizing and measuring accountability. Accountability is, however, a conceptually and empirically slippery word, subject to a host of competing definitions, interpretations, understandings, and rhetorical usages. One solution is to turn from accountability-the-word to accountability-the-concept. Consideration of the complexity of the conceptual space of accountability as well as its historical contingency suggests that the development of a meaningful empirical program for accountability research requires explicitly locating specific measures and their organizing analytical frameworks within maps of the conceptual space and historical ontology of accountability as a mode of governance. Once this is done, it becomes feasible to propose meaningful empirical research programs for investigating accountability as a mode of governance by understanding the location of measurable elements of accountability systems within analytic frameworks and conceptual space.