Government and Opposition

Symposium on Democracy and New Modes of Governance

New Modes of Governance, Political Accountability and Public Reason1

Albert Weale


New modes of governance are said to create problems of political accountability. To understand this claim, we need a theory of accountability. Electoral accountability provides authorization and sanction, but it neglects the problems entailed in the requirement to provide explanation and justification. Political accountability in this discursive sense can be understood through the idea of public reason, where this is defined in terms of substantive rationality and an orientation to the public interest. This conceptualization leads in turn to the requirement of replicability and openness in public reasoning. The problem of accountability is one of securing the conditions under which the institutions within which policy deliberation takes place can merit the confidence of citizens in these terms, and the Commission White Paper on European governance is used to illustrate the application of these tests.


1 A version of this paper was originally presented at the NEWGOV Workshop at the European University Institute in June 2008. It was also presented at the University of Mainz on 10 June 2008. I thank the participants on both occasions for comments. I also thank Ruth Zimmerling for her written comments, as well as two anonymous referees for this journal.