chapter  4
20 Pages

Responsibility and Accountability

Some critics of managerialism, wishing to distance themselves from how accountability is now understood, have suggested that because the word ‘accountability’ carries within it all that is found offensive about micromanagement, we should focus instead on the notion of responsibility. ‘Accountability’ is ‘punitive’ and ‘pre-dominantly contractual . . . in its discourse’, Michael Fielding (2001b) argues. It is with the concept of ‘responsibility’ that we shall locate ethical intent on the part of an agent:

the distinctions between accountability and responsibility point to two contrasting realities and intentions . . . Because responsibility is primarily a moral, not a technical or contractual notion, it both elicits and requires a felt and binding mutuality that does not depend upon hierarchical structures so typical of accountability. (699)

Fielding’s argument is an endorsement and elaboration of Inglis’s (2000) argument that the political, moral, and existential qualities of the two notions, accountability and responsibility, are different.And other critics of managerialism, who would clearly be in agreement with such views, point out that accountability is now ‘equated narrowly with the use of accounting procedures’ (Willmott 1996: 31), and that ‘what is being assured is the quality of control systems rather than the quality of fi rst order operations’: ‘In such a context, accountability is discharged by demonstrating the

existence of . . . systems of control, not by demonstrating good teaching, caring . . . ’ (Power 1994b: 19).