This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. Please check back later for the full article.
The words accountability and responsibility are often used as if they were synonymous. They are not, though both concepts are contestable as to their real meaning, and various interpretations can be found, including different types, or sources, of accountability—for example, political, administrative, legal, and professional. Generically, accountability is better understood as a synonym for organizational and political control: subordinates provide true or false accounts (stories, reports, fabrications, lies, and so on) of their actions to superiors in the first instance, and governors to the governed in the second. Accountability is essentially about answerability to relevant others for the ways in which discretionary power and authority are exercised, in political and organizational contexts. Popular demands that governmental agents be held accountable when things go wrong are seldom satisfied, because the quest for accountability is usually a matter for political disputation and reputation-protection rather than forensic determination.
Responsibility also has different meanings in common discourse. One principal usage is close to the idea of accountability (as above), and so lines of hierarchical responsibility are often depicted in organization charts and such. However, responsibility means much more than this. It is better understood as individual or collective agency—that is, individuals or groups intentionally or unintentionally cause particular effects or outcomes, and in so doing, they are willing to acknowledge to others that they have done so. While accountability is often a matter of simply ensuring that systems are under control and operate as intended, questions of responsibility, by contrast, focus on issues of individual and collective moral choice among or between different and sometimes conflicting obligations.
There is a relationship between the ideas of accountability and responsibility, as the former can be understood as a necessary but insufficient condition of the latter: public officials’ willingness to be fully accountable is an integral component of their willingness to act responsibly, but acting responsibly means much more than merely being accountable. Too great an emphasis on the need to be accountable can supplant or diminish an individual’s or a group’s sense of responsibility, by discouraging self-reflection while encouraging blame-shifting: “I was only following orders.” As a consequence, people and organizations can be held fully accountable for their actions, after the event, and may be willingly accountable for them, even though such actions may be judged by others to be in gross violation of widely held moral standards and social norms. In sum, the idea of individual and collective responsibility is of a higher philosophical order than that of accountability.
Dictatorships have dominated global politics for hundreds of years, from the pharaohs of Egypt to the absolute monarchs of Europe. Though democracy has since spread to much of the world, about a third of today’s countries are still ruled by dictatorship. And yet, compared to democracies, we know very little about how dictatorships work, who the key political actors are, and where decision-making powers lie. Political processes are opaque, and information is often intentionally distorted. Political survival depends not on maintaining the favor of voters, as in democracies, but on securing the backing of a considerably smaller coalition of supporters. The absence of a reliable third party to enforce compromises among key players means that power-sharing deals lack credibility and the threat of forced ouster is omnipresent. Uncertainty pervades authoritarian politics.
Modern autocrats respond to this uncertain environment in a variety of ways. They use political parties, legislatures, elections, and other institutions typically associated with democracies to lessen their risk of overthrow. Despite the façade of democracy, these institutions are key components of most autocrats’ survival strategies; those that incorporate them last longer in power than those that do not. The specific ways in which autocratic institutions are used and the extent to which they can constrain leadership choices to prevent consolidation of power into the hands of a single individual, however, vary enormously from one dictatorship to the next. Better understanding the conditions that push autocracies down a path of collegial versus strongman rule remains a critical task, particularly given that the latter is associated with more war, economic mismanagement, and resistance to democratization.
Ever since Aristotle, the comparative study of political regimes and their performance has relied on classifications and typologies. The study of democracy today has been influenced heavily by Arend Lijphart’s typology of consensus versus majoritarian democracy. Scholars have applied it to more than 100 countries and sought to demonstrate its impact on no less than 70 dependent variables. This paper summarizes our knowledge about the origins, functioning, and consequences of two basic types of democracy: those that concentrate power and those that share and divide power. In doing so, it will review the experience of established democracies and question the applicability of received wisdom to new democracies.
Constructivism in the social sciences has known several ups and downs over the last decades. It was rather early successful in sociology but hotly contested in international relations. Oddly enough, just at the moments it made important inroads into the research agenda and also became accepted by the mainstream, the enthusiasm for it waned, and many constructivists—as did mainstream scholars—moved from the concerns of “grand theory” or even “meta-theory” toward “normal science,” or experimented with other (eclectic) approaches, of which the “turn to practice” is perhaps the latest manifestation.
In a way, constructivism was “successful” on the one hand by introducing norms, norm-dynamics, and diffusion; the role of new actors in world politics; and the changing role of institutions into the debates, while losing, on the other hand, much of its critical potential. The latter survived only on the fringes—and in Europe more than in the United States. The Copenhagen school, building on the speech act theory, engendered at least a principled discussion of security studies, even if its use of speech acts was too simplistic.
In the United States constructivism soon became “mainstreamed” by having its analysis of norms reduced to “variable research.” Similarly, while the “life cycle of norms” apparently inevitably led to norm cascades and “boomerangs,” “norm death,” strangely enough, never made the research agenda, despite the obvious empirical evidence (preventive strikes, unlawful combatants, drone strikes, extrajudicial killings etc.).
The elective affinity of constructivism and humanitarianism seemed to have transformed the former into the enlightenment project of “progress,” where a hidden (or not so hidden) teleology of history à la Kant tends to overwhelm the analysis and thus prevents a serious conceptual engagement with both law and (inter-) national politics. This bowdlerization of constructivism is further buttressed by the fact that none of the “leading” U.S. departments has a constructivist on board, ensuring thereby the narrowness of conceptual and methodological choices to which the future “professionals” are exposed. The engagement with concepts and language, which “first generation” constructivists introduced, is displaced again by “ideal theory” (both in terms of deductive reasoning based on “unrealistic” assumptions and in the “clarification” of abstract principles à la Rawls), or by the search for “algorithms” hidden in “big data.”
Richard Ned Lebow
Counterfactuals seek to alter some feature or event of the pass and by means of a chain of causal logic show how the present might, or would, be different. Counterfactual inquiry—or control of counterfactual situations—is essential to any causal claim. More importantly, counterfactual thought experiments are essential, to the construction of analytical frameworks. Policymakers routinely use then by to identify problems, work their way through problems, and select responses. Good foreign-policy analysis must accordingly engage and employ counterfactuals.
There are two generic types of counterfactuals: minimal-rewrite counterfactuals and miracle counterfactuals. They have relevance when formulating propositions and probing contingency and causation. There is also a set of protocols for using both kinds of counterfactuals toward these ends, and it illustrates the uses and protocols with historical examples. Policymakers invoke counterfactuals frequently, especially with regard to foreign policy, to both choose policies and defend them to key constituencies. They use counterfactuals in a haphazard and unscientific manner, and it is important to learn more about how they think about and employ counterfactuals to understand foreign policy.
Liberalism in politics is associated with nonauthoritarianism, the rule of law, constitutional government with limited powers, and the guarantee of civil and political liberties. A liberal society is tolerant of different religious, philosophical, and ethical doctrines and allows individuals to freely form and express their conscientious convictions and opinions on all matters and live according to their chosen purposes and life paths. In economic terms, liberalism is associated with an unplanned economy with free and competitive markets, as well as private ownership and control of productive resources.
The basic institutions that are characteristic of a liberal society are constitutionalism and the rule of law; equal basic rights and liberties; formal equality of opportunity; free, competitive markets with private property in means of production; government’s obligation to provide public goods and a social minimum; and the fiduciary nature of political power to impartially provide for the public good. Liberals interpret these basic institutions differently. Classical liberalism regards extensive property rights and economic liberties as basic, while libertarians see all rights as property rights and as absolute. High liberalism regards economic liberties as subordinate to personal and political liberties and subject to regulation, with redistribution of income and wealth to mitigate gross inequalities and provide all citizens with adequate resources to guarantee the worth of their basic liberties and opportunities.
James T. Hamilton
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. Please check back later for the full article.
If most voters remain rationally ignorant about the details of public policy, how can politicians be held accountable for their actions? Information markets offer an unprecedented amount of data today to help people in their roles as consumers, workers, and audience members. Yet the stories that help voters hold politicians accountable face a number of hurdles in the market place. Investigative work about public affairs topics is expensive, uncertain, and not always highly demanded. Attempts by candidates to convey ideas through the media faces a conflict between what approaches motivate the marginal voter and what topics are of interest to the marginal viewer. Research in media economics offers evidence on what types of political information gets produced, what the impact of accountability journalism is on the functioning of government, and where market failures exist in the coverage of politics and policy.
Benno Teschke and Steffan Wyn-Jones
The problematic implications of the long absence of a dedicated encounter between Marxism and FPA (foreign policy analysis) are discussed. This absence has been marked by a series of different starting points and theoretical preferences between both intellectual projects. A paradigmatic turn for the incorporation of FPA and international politics into a revised Marxist research program is needed. Whereas FPA originated within a United States–centric Cold War context, growing out of the subfield of “comparative foreign policy,” which initially pursued a positivistic methodology, Marxism’s European theoretical legacy afforded neither international relations nor foreign policy analysis any systematic place since its inception in the 19th century. Recurring rapprochements were qualified successes due to Marxism’s tendency to relapse into structuralist versions of grand theorizing. While these could speak to general theories of international relations in the field of IR (international relations) from the late 20th century onward, FPA fell again and again through the cracks of this grand analytical register. Marxist FPA has only very recently been recognized as a serious research program, notably within the two traditions of neo-Gramscian international political economy (IPE) and Marxist historical sociology. With this move, Marxism has started to identify a problematique and produced a nascent literature that should bear fruit in the future.
Harris Mylonas and Kendrick Kuo
Nationalism continues to be an important ideology that informs the way state elites formulate and implement foreign policy. The relationship between nationalism and foreign policy is complex: there are many relevant levels of analysis and multiple causal pathways linking nationalism and foreign policy. Scholars have identified national masses, elite policymakers, and the nation-state itself as units of analysis. The causal mechanisms that relate nationalism and foreign policy have also been wide ranging: nationalism has been treated as an independent variable that drives foreign policy decision making but also as endogenous to international factors and a country’s foreign policy. Moreover, the causal relationship between nationalism and foreign policy has also been conceptualized as an interactive one.
This eclecticism is noticeable in the study of nationalism and war. The war proneness of nationalism may be a function of the type of nationalist ideology being used. The nation-state as a product of the ideology of nationalism may be inseparable from war making. And the international system, ordered upon nationalist principles of self-determination and popular rule, may endogenously produce political violence. More recently, the role of nationalist protests in interstate crisis diplomacy has become more salient, especially in post-Soviet and China studies. Are nationalist protests manufactured by the government, or are governments forced to adopt certain foreign policies because of public pressure? The conundrum about nationalism being endogenous or exogenous again rears its head.
Nationalism studies is an interdisciplinary field, but within political science interest in nationalism has largely been confined to comparative politics. International relations theory does incorporate nationalism as an important independent variable, but too often this is done in an ad hoc fashion. All in all, there has not been enough systematic theorizing about nationalism in foreign policy analysis.
Russell J. Dalton
Early electoral research in the United States discovered the most important concept in the study of political behavior: party identification. Party identification is a long-term, affective attachment to one’s preferred political party. Cross-national research finds that these party identities are a potent cue in guiding the attitudes and behavior of the average person. Partisans tend to repeatedly support their preferred party, even when the candidates and the issues change. Party ties mobilize people to vote to support their party, and to work for the party during the campaign. And given the limited information most people have about complex political issues, party ties provide a cue to what positions one should support. The levels of partisanship among contemporary publics, and how it varies across nations and across time, are described. The implications of these patterns, and the current research debates on the significance of partisanship for democracies today, are discussed.