Defining Accountability in a Network Society

Business Ethics Quarterly 17 (3):515-534 (2007)
Abstract
This paper challenges some of the basic epistemological assumptions that underpin our current conceptions of accountability.Recent legislative developments like Sarbanes-Oxley attempt to enhance accountability in the business environment through the employment of checks and balances and the threat of individual liability. This kind of legalistic strategy still seems to assume the existence of an individual agent who employs moral principles to come to decisions in a deliberate, impartial manner. This paper will emphasize that moral decision-making often does not take place in this manner, but is rather a tacit process of sensing what the appropriate behavior would be. Accountability, both with respect to individuals and organizations, is less a matter of “accounting for” a set of concrete assets, than a question of being accountable to a set of internal and external stakeholders, or in terms of the tacit sense of moral propriety that develops among business associates and colleagues over time
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