Accountability and its Metaphors: From Forum to Agora and Bazaar

Ciarán O'Kelly, Melvin Dubnick

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In this paper we seek to develop a ‘relational’ perspective on accountability and on so-called ‘unaccountability.’. We focus on Mark Bovens’s use of the forum metaphor in his accountability model, arguing that his relational perspective is too narrow. We advocate instead a far broader and more fundamental engagement with the idea of relational accountability. Expanding the metaphors, we point to two other accountability spaces: ‘agora,’ a primordial accountability space and ‘bazaar,’ an emergent accountability space rooted in ground-level exchange between different actors. Assertions about ‘unaccountability,’ we argue, very often reflect a failure to appreciate the fundamentally relational nature of accountability: those who use such assertions as bases for action aimed at making situations, processes or people ‘more accountable’ in fact seek to assert or impose a certain form of relationship – one that is hierarchical and monopolistic – and reflect therefore a drive to power and domination.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sept 2014


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