If cultures are always in the making, the contributors to this book have caught one kind of culture on the make. It is informed by practices confined to no single set of institutions and to no one part of the world. Recognizable in the most diverse places, these practices also drive very local concerns. They determine the allocation of resources and can seem crucial to the credibility of enterprises; people become devoted to their implementation; they evoke a common language of aspiration. They also evoke anxiety and small resistances, are held to be deleterious to certain goals, and as overdemanding if not outright damaging. An old name is used for the new phenomenon: accountability. Its dual credentials in moral reasoning and in the methods and precepts of financial accounting go back a long way. But over the last two decades, and in numerous contexts, it has acquired a social presence of a new kind.
Close to home, often overlooked, or (thankfully) shut out from the 'real' tasks of productive work, a new league of expectations has mushroomed in the white-collar and professional workplace. For many anthropologists the workplace is the university, and here higher education is being moulded and managed according to what seems an almost ubiquitous consensus about aims, objectives and procedures. The emergent consensus is one which endorses government through the twin passage points of economic efficiency and good practice.
This is how the financial and the moral meet in one turn of the century rendering of accountability. That there is culture on the make here is evident from the concomitant emergence, and dominance, of what are deemed acceptable forms. Only certain social practices take a form which will convince, one which will persuade