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Accountability re-examined: evidence from Hull House

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to re-examine accountability in a concrete historical context from the perspective of pragmatism and feminist theory. Design/methodology/approach ‐ An archival case study of Hull House. Findings ‐ Both pragmatism and feminist theory of Benhabib provide new insight into alternative conceptions of accountability, conceptions at odds with the prevailing and dominant emphasis on quantitative measures of performance. Further, this paper suggests that this limited view severely narrows the understanding of organizational "success." Research limitations/implications ‐ While this research serves to problematize notions of accountability further, it leaves the task of developing alternative practices to future researchers. Originality/value ‐ This paper contributes in two ways: first, there is a paucity of research linking pragmatism to the actual workings of concrete organizations. This paper begins to fill that gap. Second, this work draws the attention of accounting and other organizational researchers to the important role played by the settlement movement, and particularly Hull House, in the development of contemporary organizations.

Keywords: Accounting history; Feminism; Non-profit organizations; Philanthropy; Pragmatism; United States of America

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/09513570810893245

Publication date: August 1, 2008

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