Accountability is a central concept in comparative politics. Yet its growing popularity in a number of applied fields, including development policy, has resulted in a dilution of its content and introduced an undesirable semantic confusion. This paper argues that it may still be possible to recover from this state of affairs, by resisting ‘conceptual stretching’ as recommended by Giovanni Sartori. The paper contributes with a synthesized approach based on a widely recognized set of core features of accountability, and provides a typology of subtypes with examples. Implications for empirical research include the importance of distinguishing between accountability and responsiveness, and the difficulty of aggregating findings about different subtypes of accountability to construct general conclusions in causal form.
London, UK, Africa Power and Politics Programme (APPP), 25 pp.