What is the concept of “accountability”?

Schwalbe has further clarified the concept of “accountability” and published it in 2000. In his opinion one should speak of “networks” of the “accountability”, so the complexity and the interdependence of these processes is taken into account. The process here is meant to perceive the beginning of the interaction, is, the interaction partner, first to characterize it and finally to evaluate it, as well as to confirm or reject the original typification. These networks are comparable to the various levels of interactions and their consequences. This means, that levels are attendance, personal appearance, gesture and language. According to him, networks are the actual driving force for the continuation and confirmation of categorial “difference” as well as the basis for the distribution of resources according to the normative expectations. It also states that an agent must be categorized and sorted. Only then can the action of B appear meaningful for A and be comprehensible, and thus also be described in terms of suitability and intelligibility. This confirms the social reality and relevance of these categories (gender, …).

To this end, West and Fenstermaker thought that some questions of the “Doing Difference” concept could be better answered with another thesis. Their first argument is that all normative prescriptions can be traced back to the same origin. This origin corresponds to specific institutional and social practices in the “natural” allocation of material and symbolic resources (Fenstermaker and West 2001, p.245).

It should be clear that the Doing-Difference concept is neither limited to face-to-face situations nor detached from institutional practices. Instead, the active production of difference and inequality results from the peculiarity of the respective institutional and collective context.

This means that the structures of a society are decisive in the production of difference. The principle of “accountability” is the driving force in the production of difference. The special features of the normative order form the content and the social interaction is the medium (see Fenstermaker and West 2001, p. 245). They conclude that the result of this is the social differentiation in Western societies.

A further point is that these processes explain why resistance and social change are possible. They would like to arrive at a theoretical framework in which they deal with common, interrelated actions within certain situations. Only then can one understand how the “Doing Difference” actually takes place and to what extent change is possible, is how the change goes.

Consequently, they come to the conclusion, which also supported Schwalbe that many theoretical problems would be solved which should be investigated empirically, if the focus is on the doing. So if you put the process and social action without reification. This means that, we must not describe sex, ethnicity, and class as a reified category, but rather as a process.


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