Traditionally, American government has created detailed, formal procedures to ensure that its agencies and employees are accountable for finances and fairness. Now in the interest of improved performance, we are asking our front-line workers to be more responsive, we are urging our middle managers to be innovative, and we are exhorting our public executives to be entrepreneurial. Yet what is the theory of democratic accountability that empowers public employees to exercise such discretion while still ensuring that we remain a government of laws? How can government be responsive to the needs of individual citizens and still remain accountable to the entire polity? In Rethinking Democratic Accountability, Robert D. Behn examines the ambiguities, contradictions, and inadequacies in our current systems of accountability for finances, fairness, and performance. Weaving wry observations with political theory, Behn suggests a new model of accountabilitywith compacts of collective, mutual responsibilityto address new paradigms for public management.
"A thoughtful and thought-provoking treatment of the question of the implication of recent management developments for the problems of accountability in a democratic society." --Philip G. Joyce, CAP Corner, 11/1/2001 "Behn does a remarkable and succinct job of outlining how the ideas of Woodrow Wilson, Max Weber, and Frederick Taylor have blended with politics in the media age to bring about this emphasis on procedural or rule-bound accountability." --Matthew L. Hale, University of Southern California, Governance, 4/1/2002 "... a thoughtful and innovative analysis... [Behn] has carefully and skillfully defined an important problem and taken creative steps in thinking through possible responses. The agenda he proposes is well worth taking up." --Ralph Hambrick, Virginia Commonwealth University, Public Integrity, 7/1/2002 "... thoughtful and thought-provoking..." -- Rutgers Accounting Web, 9/1/2002 "Behn's ideas are innovative, complex, engaging, and important." --David H. Rosenbloom, American University, Journal of Politics, 11/1/2002 "... another breath of fresh air from Robert Behn. Written as only Behn can, with a sagacious, readable style." --Nicholas A. Giannatasio, University of North Carolina at Pembroke, American Review of Public Administration, 6/1/2002 "Good advice for managers who want to integrate reform into the daily operations of their agency." --Alasdair Roberts, Syracuse University, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 7/1/2002 "Robert Behn offers an insightful and carefully considered discussion of public accountablility in a democratic society... [He] leads the reader on a thoughtful exploration of the current state of public sector management... [His] book is well researched and very readable... He does an outstanding job of raising the right questions concerning accountability for performance and at the same time enhances our knowledge of the new public management... One feels energized by his observations." --Nancy P. Pursley, University of South Carolina, Public Policy and Practice (U. of S. Carolina), 6/1/2002 "... thought-provoking... a well-reasoned and original contribution. His lively writing, balanced assessment, and ambitious recommendations are rare in the well-plowed field of accountability literature... Behn moves the accountability debate to a new level." --Peter Kobrak, Western Michigan University, American Political Science Review, 6/1/2002 "... sophisticated and insightful... Behn succeeds in his mission of provoking the reader to think seriously about the fundamental issue of democratic accountability." --O.P. Dwivedi, University of Guelph, Canada, Political Science Quarterly, 10/1/2002 "[Behn's endnotes] are a treasure trove of excellent references and Behn's insightful comments, point and counterpoint discussions, and often humurous comments... Behn thoughtfully dissects serious problems with current accountability practices." --Sharon L. Craudle, General Accounting Office, San Francisco, The Public Manager, 7/1/2001 "This is an important and even brave book, which diagnoses well a fundamental problems in public service delivery. It blends theory and practice in ways that are rare in the public administration literature. Behn's emphasis on accountability as a way out of our current performance problems needs to be taken seriously." --Frederick S. Lane, Baruch College, City University of New York, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 9/1/2003 "... A thoughtful consideration of how to ensure accountability in public administration... Behn carefully contructs a definition of accountability and how it can be practically applied... Behn argues exhaustively, in the new performance-based world of public management, old-fashioned process-oriented accountability mechanisms are incapable of measuring performance without reducing the discretion essential to enhancing performance. Accountability requires both discretion for accountability 'holdees' and trust from accountability 'holders.'" --Matthew M. Taylor, Ph.D Candidate, Georgetown University, Democracy and Society, 11/1/2004