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The Contingencies of Societal Accountability: Examining the Link Between Civil Society and Good Government

Journal article
Authors Marcia Grimes
Published in Studies in comparative international development
Volume 48
Issue 4
Pages 380-402
ISSN 0039-3606
Publication year 2013
Published at Department of Political Science
Pages 380-402
Language en
Keywords Civil society, Societal accountability, Quality of government, Corruption
Subject categories Political Science


Corruption interferes with and distorts the processes of political decision making and implementation, often to the disadvantage of the already disadvantaged. Yet our understanding of the factors that might propel a political system from lower to higher levels of probity remains speculative. This article examines the role of one category of actors often touted as an important countervailing force to political power: civil society. Existing case study research provides evidence that civil society can play a decisive role in holding public officials accountable, but that the success of such societal accountability is contingent upon a number of favorable contextual and institutional conditions. The analyses presented here use panel country data to examine whether the strength of civil society affects corruption. The results corroborate the findings of existing case studies; a vibrant civil society mitigates corruption but only provided that conditions such as political competition, press freedom, and government transparency exist in the country.

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