Audit Cultures: Anthropological Studies in Accountability, Ethics, and the Academy

By Marilyn Strathern | Go to book overview

Chapter 6

Audited accountability and the imperative of responsibility

Beyond the primacy of the political

Ananta Giri

The reflective spiral of the reciprocal observation of the other's self-observations does not escape the circle in which both external observation and self-observation are always a system's own observation; it does not penetrate the darkness of mutual opacity…. Luhmann's depiction of the self-legitimation of a politics anchored in a state apparatus begins to fall apart if systems theory is confronted with the task of 'conceiving the theory of the state from the perspective of an ethically responsible and responsive society'.

Habermas 1996:347, 342

All that matters for the realization of society is that the component autopoietic systems should satisfy certain relations regardless of the actual structures (internal processes) through which they realize them. Accordingly, hypocrisy plays an important role in the realization of human societies, permitting human beings under stress to feign having certain properties which they abandon as soon as the stress is removed. This is why in a human society a social change takes place as a permanent phenomenon only to the extent that it is a cultural change: a revolution is a revolution only if it is an ethical revolution.

Maturana 1980: xxvii

Accountability has multiple meanings, and I take it not merely as a question of procedural validation but as intimately linked to the calling of responsibility. It refers not only to being accountable for what one is expected to do or perform but to one's responsibility beyond legal minimalism, to the growth of oneself and the other

-173-

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