Introduction: Why Do Governments Bother About Accountability?
e emergence of citizens’ rights to participation and control over the state in
contemporary literature on democracy came along with the global transformation
regarding the role and nature of state institutions: upwards (through globalization and
regional integration processes), downwards (through decentralization processes)
and outwards (through the politicization of civil society) (Pierre and Peters
). In Latin America, aer the democratic transition of the s and
the governability crisis faced by many countries during the following decade,
the framing of democracy building has challenged the traditional concept of
representative democracy with that of “co-governance” (Fontaine a), a
collaborative system based on participation and social control by dierent actors,
in which the state acts as a coordinator (Kooiman ).
Yet participation and social control over the state are both time-consuming
and economically expensive for governments (Irvin and Stansbury ). ey
are also oen frustrating for social actors wanting more consultation, more
accountability and more controlling capacity (Fung a; b), all of which
aects the political outcomes governments can expect from such measures.
erefore, the reason why governments do (or do not) care for granting citizens
such rights calls for more explanation, especially considering the irreversible
nature of policy change for more accountability, which is comparable with the
irreversibility of previous changes such as the recognition of human rights
and universal surage. ere is a need to know more about how governments
face the need to design and implement eective public policies under growing
scrutiny by non-state actors.
e argument in this paper is that such changes actually become
irreversible when they materialize at three levels of objectives and means of
policy content. is process is consistent with the neo-institutional three-order
change framework (Hall ), according to which rst-order change, through
calibration of policy instruments, and second-order change, through denition
of policy objectives and means, result from social learning, while third-order
change, through paradigmatic shi (or a new cognitive framework), results
from the adjustment obtained by inuential actors through “puzzling” and
1 On neo-instit utional frameworks and t heories, see Lowndes and Robe rts 2013.
2 Drawing on t he theory of scientic revo lutions (Kuhn 1971), this framework a lso considers the
process of a polic y paradigm sh i which exp eriences a moment of incom mensurability (Hall
1993), since it is a sociologica l, rather than a scienti c process, that depends on the pos itional
advantages of ex perts wit hin a broader in stitutiona l framework and on e xogenous factors
aectin g the power of one set of actors over the other.