Accounts and accountability: Corruption, human rights, and individual accountability norms

Hun Joon Kim, J. C. Sharman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Two parallel norms mandate an international duty to hold state leaders individually accountable for serious corruption and human rights crimes. The development of these new norms is poorly explained by realist and neoliberal perspectives, but there are also weaknesses in recent constructivist explanations of norm diffusion that emphasize agency at the expense of structure. Such approaches have difficulty explaining the source of and similarities between new norms, and treat norm entrepreneurs as prior to and separate from their environment. In contrast, drawing on sociological institutionalism, we present a more structural explanation of individual accountability norms. The norms derive from an overarching modernist world culture privileging individual rights and responsibilities, as well as rational-legal authority. This culture is more generative of norm entrepreneurs than generated by them. The specific norms are instantiated through a process of theorization within permissive post-Cold War conditions, and diffused via mimicry, professionalization, and coercive isomorphism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-448
Number of pages32
JournalInternational Organization
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Law


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