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The Quest for Responsibility

The Quest for Responsibility
Accountability and Citizenship in Complex Organisations


Part of Theories of Institutional Design

  • Author: Mark Bovens, Universiteit Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • Date Published: March 1998
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521628983

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About the Authors
  • The search for responsibility in complex organisations often seems an impossible undertaking. Adopting a multidisciplinary approach combining law, social science, ethics and organisational design, Mark Bovens analyses the reasons for this, and offers possible solutions. He begins by examining the problem of 'many hands' - because so many people contribute in so many different ways, it is very difficult to determine who is accountable for organisational behaviour. Four possible solutions - corporate, hierarchical, collective and individual accountability - are analysed from normative, empirical and practical perspectives. Bovens argues that individual accountability is the most promising solution, but only if individuals have the chance to behave responsibly. The book then explores the implications of this approach. What does it mean to be a 'responsible' employee or official? When is it legitimate to disobey the orders of superiors? What institutional designs might be most appropriate?

    • Broad-ranging study of how responsibility is allocated in complex organisations, from corporations to government bodies
    • Takes a multidisciplinary approach which is accessible to scholars and students of administration, politics, sociology, law, and business
    • Dutch language version won a prestigious prize, described by the judges as: 'a classic study', 'a superb, systematic, and very clear analysis'
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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 1998
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521628983
    • length: 268 pages
    • dimensions: 239 x 158 x 20 mm
    • weight: 0.44kg
    • contains: 4 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. The Quest for Responsibility:
    1. Complex organisations and the quest for responsibility
    2. Complex organisations as corporate actors
    3. Two concepts of responsibility
    Part II. Passive Responsibility:
    4. Accountability: the problem of many hands
    5. Corporate accountability: the organisation as a person
    6. Hierarchical accountability: one for all
    7. Collective accountability: all for one
    8. Individual accountability: each for oneself
    Part III. Active Responsibility:
    9. Virtue: active responsibility in complex organisations
    10. Exit: resignation and refusal
    11. Voice: whistleblowing and leaking
    12. Loyalty: responsibility as a by-product.

  • Author

    Mark Bovens, Universiteit Utrecht, The Netherlands

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