Responsibility is More than Accountability: From Regulatory Towards Negotiated Governance

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This paper critically assesses the notion of responsibility and argues that by adopting a broader understanding as going beyond accountability will shift our focus from regulatory to negotiated governance. Negotiated governance emphasizes the origin of rules and regulations and their contestation over the focus on compliance and enforcement. In order to elaborate this argument, I use the case of corporate social responsibility (CSR). The paper takes departure in the governance literature. Reviewing that scholarship, I develop a typology of responsibility to first substantiate the paper's claim that responsibility is more than accountability. In a second step, I derive a taxonomy of CSR practices that are loosely associated with different meanings of responsibility. The taxonomy highlights two specific problems that the literature focusing on accountability leaves unanswered, these are the moral underpinnings of CSR and how companies take on moral agency and come to prioritize and justify their choices and the expectational context in which that happens, that is the respective community of responsibility. Taking ‘responsibility’ in the meaning of the word seriously as a normative and relational concept shifts our attention to the contested nature of what CSR means and the way how it is negotiated in such communities.
Original languageEnglish
JournalContemporary Politics
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)545-567
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Published online: 20. March 2018


  • Regulatory and negotiated governance
  • Business and moral agency
  • Responsibility versus accountability

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