This research explored the moderating effects of subordinate participation in decision making and subordinate job difficulty on their responses to different uses of control systems by their superiors. In a sample of managers from a moderately large U.S. organization, both of these factors were found to moderate the ways subordinates responded to the perceptions that their superiors used control systems for goal setting, evaluation, problem solving, and contingent reward allocations.The results of the study indicated that the use of control systems for contingent reward allocation produced defensive subordinate responses under all conditions, but also produced the functional response of effort when subordinate participation was low and job difficulty high. The use for goal setting appeared to result in functional responses when subordinate participation was high, and in dysfunctional responses when participation was low. The use for evaluation and the use for problem solving both seemed to be aspects of a collaborative developmental use of the control systems. This use pattern appeared to have primarily functional effects, although the results were more functional when the subordinate jobs were not difficult, and when they participated in decision making. Based on the results several propositions are formulated for future testing.
This study explores reductions in benefits that occurred coincident with the passage of Statement of Financial Accounting Standard 106 requiring companies to accrue a liability for unfunded retiree health benefits. Congressional hearings and the business press reveal two competing discursive constructions of the retiree health benefits crisis. The first portrayed them as moral obligations that firms were attempting to avoid, the second as unexpected liabilities threatening corporations. Drawing on the work of Skocpol (1992), Weber (1949, 1978) and Burawoy (1983, 1985), we argue that characterizing these benefits primarily as accounting liabilities reinforced the second construction, facilitating corporate efforts to roll back retiree health coverage.
One response of the imperial government in London to the Irish Famine (1845-1849) was to initiate a scheme of public works underpinned by relief payments based on task work. This policy was informed by a determination to improve the 'moral habits' of the native Irish in relation to work. To support the data collection and control systems necessary to operate this intervention, the imperial government recruited a large number of accountants charged with introducing a vast accounting apparatus to Ireland. The institutionalisation of accounting that this facilitated laid the basis for interventions by the imperial power intended to 'civilise' the native Gaelic population as well as recalcitrant Anglo-Irish landlords. This intervention is considered within the context of concepts of governmentality and cultural imperialism.
From 1854 to 1880 Scottish chartered accountants achieved a monopoly of practice founded on the unique acquisition of the credentials “CA”. After 1880 their economic domination was formally challenged by two organizations of aspirant professionals. This paper reveals that the chartered monopoly was challenged as being contrary to prevailing social and political philosophy and by employing a “critical” analysis of professional privilege. It is shown that the CA monopoly was publicly defended by assuming a “functionalist” interpretation of the role of professions in society and was protected with the assistance of superior resources, linkages with the legal profession and contemporary political circumstances.
The rise and fall of a system of unregulated voluntary financial disclosure are examined by reference to economic and social changes. Variations in disclosure are attributed to the social ownership of capital conditioned by redistributions of wealth occasioned by the trade cycle and the institutions of industrial relations. Conclusions suggest that voluntary disclosure is associated with participatory, democratic ownership structures. Conversely, secretive attitudes are fostered by the centralization of equity ownership around dominating interest groups and by institutionalized systems of collective bargaining.
This paper analyses the main features of a system of open corporate accountability to active working and middle class investors supported by an evolving capital market operating in late nineteenth century Lancashire. The economic causes and social consequences of the collapse of this system are documented and examined with special reference to the process of accounting change. Centralization of share ownership was associated with the rise of a clique of new investors skilled at mill flotation. This new group of shareholder-entrepreneurs is shown to be the instigator accounting manipulation. Social capital demanded accurate financial information. Co-operative governance allowed shareholders a temporarily effective means of achieving this.
British imperialism not only changed borders, it made the British model of accounting associations and the imaginary of ‘professional accounting men’ known to spaces far from the metropolis (mother state). Imperialism was thus integrative in this sense. In administrative terms, however, a very large, differentiated and spatially dispersed Empire became expensive. It could not be ruled uniformly or in detail and different governance structures emerged. In the settler colonies, relatively autonomous ‘self-government’ embodying variants of British precedents and institutions, provided a loose coupling of centre and periphery. The accounting associations that developed in this type of colony were, then, not compliant clones of the centre but hybrids reflecting the specificity of place and British accommodation of peripheral demands. The result was the emergence of an imperial accountancy arena. These empirics contribute to our understanding of the nineteenth century professionalisation of accounting as a cross-border phenomenon by showing how the strength of weak ties between parts of a periphery characterised by inter-colony differences (as well as similarities) imposed constraints on the imperial centre.
This paper seeks to contribute to a longstanding tradition in accounting research which attempts to understand accounting within its social and historical context. The topic of this historical narrative is the creation and role of accounting in the formation of the electricity industry in the US between 1882 until 1944. The paper is divided into three parts. In the first part we examine how early electrical engineers struggled to understand the nature and behavior of the costs of generating and distributing electricity at the turn of the 19th Century. In doing so, these engineers established a relationship between costs and the engineering concepts of load factor and diversity and developed pricing structures which would recover both standing (fixed) and running (variable) costs. In the second phase, we examine how this accounting knowledge was deployed by early "inventor entrepreneurs" and businessmen in their attempts to dominate the early electric markets in the US and how investor owned regulated utilities emerged out of these strategies as a uniquely North American institution. In the final phase, we examine how accounting became the center of intense conflict between regulatory commissions and investor owned utilities in the US court system - including the Supreme Court - as representatives of these entities vied with each other over the chart of accounts, allowable expenses, the valuation of assets and depreciation. Here we contend that utility accounting did not simply grow to reflect a regulatory process but rather worked to shape utility regulation in the US. In 1944 a legal ruling displaced the primacy of accounting in the regulatory process and shifted its focus from asset valuation to rate of return determination. The space once dominated by accountants was ceded to regulatory economists. After that, accounting became taken-for-granted and matter-of-fact.
Historical analyses of specific professionalization projects and of the profession-state axis have been suggested as possible remedies for the “unexciting routine” into which the sociology of the professions has recently slipped. Accordingly, this essay analyses an attempt by Victorian accountants to attain a Royal Charter from 1904 to 1906 and its antecedent world dating from 1885 to 1903. It tracks the shifting constraints upon, and opportunities available to key players in state agencies and accounting associations. It thereby accounts for the shifts in the aims and strategies of those, the intended and unintended consequences of their actions, and the ultimate outcome of the charter attempt. In doing so it questions the assumption of a tightly defined concept of occupational “monopoly” or “closure” associated with a stable set of strategic imperatives. It also questions the tight coupling of action, interest, and outcome implied by “crude” Marxian analyses, and supports the contention that “professions” are the dynamic outcome of the mutual interaction of “state” and “profession”.
This paper argues that Weber's class-status-party model enables an in-depth understanding of the cross-border professionalization projects of accountants. Analysis of the activities of the Incorporated Institute of Accountants (VIC) from 1886 to 1903 shows that (a) the concept of monopolistic closure is imprecise; and (b) its activities were significantly shaped by multiple and changing divisions within the association, between it and competing colonial and imperial associations, the actions of ‘autonomous’ state agencies and wider political and communal tensions. Specifically, imperial discourses and institutions, which mutated when transplanted from the metropolitan centre to the penal (then productive) periphery, were material.
Set in colonial Australia, this study examines the professionalisation trajectory of a group of accountants in Melbourne culminating in organisational fusion on the formation of the Incorporated Institute of Accountants, Victoria (IIAV) in 1886. The study portrays professionalisation as a dynamic process involving a diversity of “signals of movement” towards occupational ascendancy that arise in periods before as well as after the formation of occupational associations. It employs the prosopographical method of data collection to interrogate the occupational and commercial backgrounds of the 45 founders of the IIAV in the pre-1886 period and is also informed through the critical-conflict analytical framework. The findings reveal that intraprofessional rivalries fuelled by international relations of power and nationalist self-interests provided the impetus to organisational assembly in this case.
This paper examines the architectural history of Chartered Accountants' Hall, London, from the point of view of its use by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales to confirm and enhance its professional status in the early phase of its existence. Drawing on sociology of the professions literature, the study links the hall with the emergence of the professional headquarters of the main legal and medical bodies on which the Institute of Chartered Accountants based much of its behaviour. A loose model for such buildings is utilized as a framework within which relevant aspects of the detailed history of Chartered Accountants' Hall are elaborated.
This essay focuses on the manner in which an enterprise's accounting practices may be affected by a complex of independent and disparate external factors interacting with internal forces to create a sustained dynamic of change within the organisation. As its object of enquiry, the French motor car manufacturer Renault is studied over a forty-year period immediately preceding the Second World War. The conditioning influences of scientific management and statistical information and their interplay with Renault's costing concerns are examined. The study suggests that accounting change at Renault was dependent on a complex set of relationships and preconditions and that the specificity of the company's accounting controls was tied to both contemporary and historically distant influences rather than to notions of functional requirements dictated by processes internal to the organisation. As such, accounting change is argued to have been determined by circumstance as opposed to essence.
Management accounting is commonly understood to be a set of techniques for collecting and processing useful facts about organisational life. The information obtained is viewed as an objective form of knowledge untaited by social values and ideology; the practitioners as technically skilled professionals whose political and social allegiances have no bearing on their practices. In this paper these views are brought into question through the “genealogical” method of looking in detail at one period in the history of accounting, examining the interplay between knowledge, techniques, institutions and occupational claims. In the period and place chosen — Britain during the First World War and the immediately following years, society was in a state of turmoil and this provides an ideal context for considering one part of the genealogy of management accounting.
This paper argues that studies of female exploitation frequently pay too little attention to the broader social context; particularly alienation and crises in the development of late capitalism. This criticism applies with equal force to the domestic labor/housework studies and labor process studies and labor process studies where male domination is often advanced as the primary explanatory variable in accounting for female oppression. Even where labor process researchers have emphasized mediating affects on partiarchial influences (technology and control processes for instance; c.f. Milkman, Politics and Society, pp. 159–203, 1983), we argue that the broader context of alienated capitalist social relations is frequently understated.
While the accounting profession in the U.S. has claimed to be a moral or ethical body throughout the twentieth century, its moral schema and code of ethics have in fact undergone a number of changes. This paper argues that the codes of ethics (or professional conduct), and the discourses surrounding them, appeal to meta narratives of legitimation and that through this appeal the profession seeks to legitimize itself within the social realm. The paper explores two distinct periods: the turn of the century, during which time the first code was formulated, and the 1980s when the current code was constructed. We seek to demonstrate that the changes in the code and discourses are translations of both the political challenges to the legitimacy of accountants and a wider transformation in the culture of American society.
This paper examines the literature on financial reporting to employees between 1919 and 1979. It finds that the level of publication interest has varied widely during the period as has the relative interest of accountant and non-accountant groups. Periods of heightened publication activity appear to repeatedly coexist with four major socioeconomic factors, and arguments that this coexistence is not coincidental are considered. Finally it is noted that the same reporting to employee issues are frequently recalled and re-examined; possible reasons for this are considered.
This article tries to show how the result of a process of social closure and the achievement of a professional project are heavily dependent on the cultural context in which they are embedded. The concepts of field and of capital developed by Pierre Bourdieu help to understand the failure, before the Second World War, of the project to institutionalise the accounting profession in France. The accountants’ inability to solidify hierarchies internal to the professional field and the unfavourable insertion of this field in the overall hierarchy of social fields will be used as key-arguments to account for this failure.
This paper explores the ways in which accounting, licensing legislation and the courts have intersected over time, shaping and reshaping the contours of the CPA's economic jurisdiction and thereby restricting and/or enhancing competition between CPAs and the uncertified. While much attention has focused on the use of legislation and favorable interpretations of these statutes as a means of obtaining and expanding exclusive areas of work, little work has considered the role of the courts as a forum in which to contest and thereby limit the expansion activities of CPAs. The courts have played an important role in deciding issues such as who can be called a CPA, who can be called an accountant and when can a CPA be called a CPA. In deciding these issues, the courts have relied upon shifting constitutional arguments to advance and curb the jurisdiction building activities of CPAs. Early arguments called upon notions of the freedom of contract to challenge legislatively imposed limits on who might perform accounting work. Such arguments were later supplemented and eventually supplanted by those based upon freedom of speech, a freedom only recently held to extend to commercial speech. These shifting arguments are traced in the paper which concludes with some observations about the changing significance of the CPA designation.