||on this page
||Accounting is usually understood as a branch of Applied
Economics -- making sense of the financial performance of the firm.
As recent events have shown (Enron)
accounting and auditing have important ethical
Within business computing, accounting is usually studied
as a typical example of a management information and control system.
Aside from this, it is useful to recognize the social
power and influence of the accounting view of the world. Business accounting
is what some sociologists call a discursive practice, involving
a special language as well as special techniques. It confers special power
and influence over business affairs.
To the French mathematician Professor Jean-Louis Rigal
is attributed the slogan: "Quantification is the ultimate form of fascism."
Once when I was in France, some British wartime Pathé newsreel
clips were being played on the television. One item reported a serious
warehouse fire in Hackney, East London. Perhaps other countries at war
would have suppressed news of such a disaster, or would have falsely blamed
the accident on enemy action. The British commentary merely took a schoolboy
delight in numbers: how many fire engines, battling for how many hours,
how many firemen overcome with smoke, 80 feet the flames. To quantify is
to master, the accountant’s disease. The French TV programme showed Britain
as a nation of accountants.
||“In the game of business …[accountants] aspired to be players, or at
least umpires, but were relegated to the humble office of scorekeepers.
Their revenge for this ignominy was to keep the score in such a way that
neither the players nor the umpires could ascertain the state of the game.”
Quoted in the Financial Times
June 14, 2003.
||“The black and white figures in a profit and loss account … might be
discriminated even by a well-conditioned rat.”
||G. Vickers, The Art of Judgment (Chapman & Hall,
Harper & Row ed, p 154
||It is sometimes said that American business is run by lawyers, British
business by accountants, and German business by engineers. If this were
true, what consequences would you expect to follow from it?
||Accountants are often regarded as “mere bean counters”, and yet many
accountants become successful business executives. Explain this phenomenon
with reference to accounting as a discursive practice.
This page last updated on June 18th, 2003
Copyright © 2003 Veryard Projects Ltd