The (re-)construction of accountability : discursive space, Habitus, and reflexivity

Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2005
Thesis identifier
  • T11302
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • The thesis explores 'discourses' on accountability and their congruence with current debates on corporate social responsibility. It draws attention to how the formal accounting discourse on accountability privileges the merits of a 'plural liberal' approach, and how this undermines what is to be done to establish democratic relations between corporations and their 'stakeholders'. The liberal discourse is interpreted as that concerned with the 'administration' of communicative practices in institutionalised rules and procedures. It is argued that liberals impose boundary conditions on accountability in which communication is linked to an 'information processing' methodology. This prompts accountability to be analysed in terms of informed decision-making in economic markets or formal regulatory contexts. Responding to this, the thesis draws attention to the manner in which accountability has been analysed as a lived 'organic' practice, relying more on 'sense making' than information processing behaviour. Links are established between a sense making approach and a 'radical' (post-liberal) approach to engagement and 'praxis'. A definition of praxis is drawn by exploring in depth the foundations of Pierre Bourdieu's critical sociology. Particular emphasis is placed on the dynamic Bourdieu hypothesises between the 'field' and the 'habitus', and his idea that changes in the discursive space can be prompted by and prompt changes in a social, cultural, or political habitus. Bourdieu's work is compared to other related theories of 'reflexive' change - in particular those of Beck, Giddens, and Lash - and related to Lash's distinction between cognitive, aesthetic, and hermeneutic reflexivity. Together, these theorists provide a framing mechanisms for analysing accountability in terms of institutional 'adaptation', 'cross-control' amongst experts, and 'community participation', and evaluating the extent to which different forms of communication sustain emergent social movements. These ideas are applied to the communicative practices associated with accountability, and used to inform the idea that non-administered communicative forms could facilitate the transfer of peripheral discourses to the centre of the political space.
Resource Type
Date Created
  • 2005
Former identifier
  • 717163