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.
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.
Doh Chull Shin
How well do people around the world understand democracy? Do they support democracy with an informed understanding of what it is? To address these questions, which have largely been overlooked in the literature on democratization, the World Values Survey and three regional barometer surveys are analyzed according to a two-dimensional notion of democratic knowledge. Their analyses reveal that a vast majority of global citizenries especially in post-authoritarian and authoritarian countries are either uninformed or misinformed about the fundamental characteristics of democracy and its alternatives. These findings contradict the popular theses that democracy is emerging as a universal value and it is also becoming the universally preferred system of government. For much of the world today, democracy represents little more than an appealing political symbol that still retains authoritarian practices.
Referendums are frequently used by the European Union (EU) to ratify EU-related propositions. There are three main types of referendums: (a) on joining (or leaving) the EU, (b) ratification of new EU treaties or agreements, and (c) advisory referendums on particular EU-related issues, like whether Turkey should join the EU. While referendums have been widely criticized as being decided by ”second-order” factors such as governmental popularity, there is evidence that, when a proposition matters for voters, voting behavior is dominated by issue-voting. However, even when issue-voting dominates in high salience referendums, there is also evidence that voters hold a status-quo bias; and in instances where a vote is close, voter dispositions to keep what they know instead of opting for more unsure gains can tip the balance towards a no vote. In lower salience referendums, party cues and recommendations play a significant role.
When referendums are close, campaign effects and the importance of information provided by campaigns matter. Information and debates can make an issue salient for voters and can provide sufficient information to enable the voters to match voting intention with their underlying EU attitudes. However, not all voters react to campaign information in the same fashion. For example, pro-EU information can make voters with negative EU atittudes even more prone to vote no, whereas voters with positive EU attitudes are not as strongly motivated.
In the past several years, most EU referendums have resulted in negative outcomes. There have been negative outcomes in low salience referendums in countries like the Netherlands, where there is evidence that second-order factors mattered. In contrast, in the December 2015 referendum in Denmark on transforming the Danish opt-out into an opt-in on Justice and Home Affairs, Danes decided based on their EU attitudes (issue-voting). In particular, opponents of more integration were more highly motivated, pushing the outcomes towards a clear no. In June 2016, a majority of British voters decided to leave the EU based on their negative attitudes towards the EU, in particular because of economic and identity-based fears about the downside of EU membership relating to immigration and sovereignty.