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Relational Accountability


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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • 1. Accountability: Idea, Ideals, Constraints
  • 2. 'Citizenships' and Relational Accountability
  • 3. Power, Citizenships and Inequalities of Accountability
  • 4. Power, Citizenships and Distorted Accountabilities
  • 5. Permeating Boundaries? Compleities of Building Accountability
  • 6. Conclusions

About the Author

Joy Moncrieffe is a political sociologist and Fellow at IDS, University of Sussex. She read for her PhD at the University of Cambridge, where she explored the politics of accountability, with reference to health administration and provision across a selection of socially and politically polarized communities in Jamaica. Currently, her research interests include power relationships, citizenship and accountability; politics and inequalities; the politics of (in) securities; and history, race and ethnicity. She is now applying these themes to action-oriented research with children who are growing up in violent and, otherwise, fragile contexts in diverse contents, including Jamaica, Haiti, Uganda and Ethiopia. Joy has worked as consultant for DFID, UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA, PLAN, SIDA, EU, World Bank, Woord en Daad and various NGOs. She is an expert on social development and poverty reduction strategies and has specialist expertise in Participatory Poverty Assessments, Institutional Analysis, Gender Analysis, Power Analysis, Policy Design and Analysis and Mixed Research methods.


'Joy Moncrieffe takes accountability out of its technical and theoretical frame and shows that power structures shape inequalities in accountability. Her vivid case studies of how these inequalities affects the life chances of children make this a compelling read.' - Rosalind Eyben, Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex ''Accountability' is the one of latest buzzwords for those concerned with development and democracy alike. Yet, as Moncrieffe reminds us, it is a contentious and illusive concept, even in western democratic history. Taking off from this history, she draws upon her own deeply-grounded work in Jamaica and Uganda, as well as from other experiences and thinkers in the global south, to argue that accountability is rooted in relations of power, history and culture - relations which are not easily subject to quick-fix solutions which focus on procedural or bureaucratic reform alone. Clearly written, constantly juxtaposing conceptual argument with local realities, this book will become a classic in the rapidly emerging field of citizenship and accountability studies.' - John Gaventa, Director, Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability, Institute of Development Studies 'This book brings a new and original dimension to the burgeoning literature on citizenship, democracy and accountability. Where the mainstream has focused on the institutional and procedural aspects of accountability, this volume emphasises the critical importance of social relations in shaping this process. This focus on the relational underscores the need for a more human and society-centred approach to accountability if it is to advance social and democratic justice.' - Prof. Chris Tapscott, Dean, Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability ' In contemporary times the centrality of accountability in the 'good governance' agenda of donors and national governments is undeniable. This book joins an emerging and growing body of literature that demonstrates that accountability cannot be reduced to a technical project of state reform, and that is a political process. Using both theoretical arguments and rigorous empirical analysis the author shows that accountability processes cannot be separated from the unequal power relationships that people live and experience in their everyday lives. She argues that relational approaches supply a human lens to interpretations of accountability, and that only by understanding the roots of unequal citizenships can it be feasible to build more equitable relations of accountability. In other words, relational approaches are concerned with the 'underbelly of societies and political institutions', and hence able to recommend context specific action and intervention for rectifying deep rooted and culturally legitimized injustices. In sum, it is a valuable contribution to our understanding of how poor people worldwide struggle to hold the powerful to account.' - Simeen Mahmud, Lead Researcher, BRAC Development Institute, BRAC University, Dhaka

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