Democratic order, autonomy and accountability

Johan P. Olsen analyses the relationship between democratic order, autonomy and accountability in a recent chapter of The Routledge Handbook to Accountability and Welfare State Reforms in Europe.

About the book 

The Routledge Handbook to Accountability and Welfare State Reforms in Europe assesses multi-dimensional accountability relations in depth, addressing the dynamic between accountability and reforms. Analyzing how welfare state reforms oriented towards agencification, managerialism and marketization affected existing relationships in services traditionally provided by public institutions, the theoretically informed, empirical chapters provide specific examples of their effect on accountability.

Expert contributors explore the relationship between accountability and performance and the impact of reforms on political, administrative, managerial, legal, professional and social accountability. The role of specific actors, such as the media and citizens, on the accountability process addressing issues of blame avoidance, reputation and autonomous agencies is discussed.


Accountability and political order

Accountability is a principle for organizing relations between rulers and ruled, and making public officials accountable is a democratic achievement. There are, however, competing claims about what is involved in demanding, rendering, assessing, and responding to accounts; what are effective accountability institutions; and how accountability regimes emerge and change.

This article provides a frame for thinking about institutional aspects of accountability regimes and their cognitive, normative, and power foundations. It makes a distinction between accountability within an established regime with stable power relations and accountability as (re)structuring processes in less institutionalized contexts and in transformation periods. A huge literature is concerned with the first issue. There is less attention to accountability as (re)structuring processes.

The article, therefore, calls attention to how democracies search for, and struggle over, what are legitimate accountability regimes and political orders.

Full info 

Johan P. Olsen
Democratic order, autonomy and accountability

In: The Routledge Handbook to Accountability and Welfare State Reforms in Europe
Tom Christensen and Per Lægreid (eds) 

Routledge, 2017
ISBN 9781472470591

Published Jan. 12, 2017 4:01 PM