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Accounting in its Social Context: An Analysis of the Accounting Systems of the Church of England



Accounting systems find their meaning and nature in the historical and social context of the organisations of which they are part. These social and technical aspects are amplified and their interrelationships traced through a specific study of the accounting systems in the Church of England. Although many of the insights are situation specific to this institution, some more general points are raised.
Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal
Accounting in its Social Context: An Analysis of the Accounting Systems of the Church of England
Richard C. Laughlin
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Richard C. Laughlin, (1988),"Accounting in its Social Context: An Analysis of the Accounting Systems of the Church of
England", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 1 Iss 2 pp. 19 - 42
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John B. Duncan, Dale L. Flesher, Morris H. Stocks, (1999),"Internal control systems in US churches: An examination of the
effects of church size and denomination on systems of internal control", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal,
Vol. 12 Iss 2 pp. 142-164
Peter Booth, (1993),"Accounting in Churches: A Research Framework and Agenda", Accounting, Auditing &
Accountability Journal, Vol. 6 Iss 4 pp. -
Kerry Jacobs, (2005),"The sacred and the secular: examining the role of accounting in the religious context", Accounting,
Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 18 Iss 2 pp. 189-210
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... Relatively few authors make explicit in published output, declarations of the methodology guiding their research (see for example, Jonsson, 1982;Covaleski and Dirsmith, 1983;Preston, 1986;Laughlin, 1988;Gray et al., 1995;Ahrens, 1997;Granlund and Lukka, 1998;Dirsmith et al., 1997;Abdul-Rahman and Goddard, 1998) and even when this is stated there are grounds for contesting a good fit within the main interpretive methodologies (see Jonsson, 1982;Covaleski and Dirsmith, 1983). Some have taken a non-committal disposition and assumed an 'interpretive' and/or a 'naturalist and qualitative' methodology^ (see Rosenberg et al, 1982;Boland and Pondy, 1983;Berry et al, 1985;Dirsmith and Covaleski, 1985;Covaleski and Dirsmith, 1986;Boland and Pondy, 1986;Ansari and Euske, 1987;Covaleski and Dirsmith, 1988;Jonsson and Gronlund, 1988;Nahapiet, 1988;Innes and Mitchell, 1990;Ansari and Bell, 1991;Dent, 1991;Hoque and Hopper, 1994;Goddard and Powell, 1994;Chew and Greer, 1997.). ...
... Nevertheless, intemationalisation of business was having an impact on Finnish national and organisational culture and there was a transition towards taking in other practices especially within large multinational firms. Laughlin (1988) and Abdul-Rahman and Goddard (1998) pursued the theme of broader socio-cultural influences by seeking to understand accounting in religious institutions. Laughlin (1988) found that in church settings the spiritual agenda was supreme while matters of accounting and accounting systems were irrelevant, particularly at the lower levels (parochial units) that formed the backbone of the church organisation. ...
... Laughlin (1988) and Abdul-Rahman and Goddard (1998) pursued the theme of broader socio-cultural influences by seeking to understand accounting in religious institutions. Laughlin (1988) found that in church settings the spiritual agenda was supreme while matters of accounting and accounting systems were irrelevant, particularly at the lower levels (parochial units) that formed the backbone of the church organisation. The spiritual context shaped the technical practices of accounting and in this respect accounting systems were 'legitimate aids but they are not part of the spiritual agenda and should not interfere with the more important spiritual endeavours of the Church. ...
p>This research investigates the phenomenon of accounting in non-governmental organisations (NGOs). It seeks to understand accounting processes and reporting practices in NGOs and conditions that sustain those processes and practices. NGOs have become important institutions in world affairs but accounting research has not developed interest in their operations. Premised on an interpretive theoretical orientation this research executes a grounded theory strategy as the principal line of inquiry (Strauss and Corbin, 1990; 1998). However, since stakeholder relationships are important dimensions in NGOs, a stakeholder analysis framework (Mitchell et al., 1997) was also employed. Fieldwork was undertaken from June 1999 to October 2000 in three Tanzanian NGOs. The research established the importance of accounting in the process of seeking, attaining and maintaining organisational legitimacy. Accounting communicated activities and scale of resource need and was the formal channel for justifying resource utilisation, but it was also an important legitimating catalyst because it symbolised organisational competence. When perceived to be adequate accounting enhanced organisational legitimacy. Increased availability of easily accessible donor funds; a weak and outdated regulatory regime; effects of stakeholder stature, organisational growth, conflicts; organisational credibility; the strength of cultural orientation; and the state of trust relationships emerged as other important conditions that facilitated or constrained the processes of navigating legitimacy. The research contributes to interpretive accounting research by providing incremental evidence of previously observed phenomena but from organisational forms that have not been studied previously. It observes accounting to be intertwined with intra-organisational dynamics as well as inter-organisational dynamics that arise from interactions with, and meeting demands, or stakeholders. The research underscores the centrality of trust to organisational accountability and suggests that the relationship between accounting and trust is a multi dimensional one. Whereas accuracy, integrity, frequency, and coverage of accounting information affect levels of trust, the depth of trust relationships similarly influences the burden of accounting.</p
... Many scholars of Islamic accounting have discussed the likely effects of the Islamic religion, at a normative level, on the accounting and reporting practices of Islamic business enterprises (e. g. Abdel-Magid, 1981;Gambling andKarim, 1986 andHamid et al., 1993;Adnan and Gaffikin, 1997;Alam, 1997;Baydoun and Willett, 1997 ' Although the "sacred-secular divide" portrayed by Laughlin (1988) and Booth (1993) has come under recent challenge (e. g. Jacobs and Walker, 2004), much of the evidence contradicting the "divide" relates to relatively minor rather than mainstream Christian groups. ...
... The effect of religion on accounting has been studied in the context of religious nonprofit organisations (e. g. Booth, 1993;Laughlin, 1988; Abdul-Rahman and Goddard, deposit system and transactions have many accounting implications, as discussed in section 4.3. Hence, we would expect Islamic accounting practice. ...
... The first theoretical contribution is that the thesis provides an extension of the theories regarding the effect of cultural values on accounting practice in general (e. g. Gray, 1988;Perera, 1989;Nobes, 1998;Chanchani and Willett, 2004) and the effect of religion as a cultural element, on accounting practice in particular (e. g. Laughlin, 1988;Faircloth, 1988;Abdul-Rahman and Goddard, 1998;Booth, 1993;Jacobs and Walker, 2004). This thesis empirically studied the effect of Islamic religion, among other factors, on accounting practice. ...
p>This thesis studies the accounting and reporting practices of Islamic banking in Jordan. It aims to provide a set of explanations for different measurement and reporting policies in these banks, and to identify the role of religion, among other factors, that have affected the choices of accounting and reporting practices and regulations for Islamic banking. This includes the study of the effect of religion and secular factors on the perceptions of the need for special accounting practices, such as standards of the Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI). The research was accomplished by undertaking an interpretative case study of the accounting and reporting practices of the Jordan Islamic Bank (JIB) over a period of 24 years; JIB has constituted Islamic banking in Jordan for most of the period covered in this study. It was found that religious considerations highly affected the choice of accounting measurement rules and regulations at the establishment stage of JIB. However, it was found that at a later stage, governmental regulations and commonly accepted practices have had most obvious effects on the evolution of accounting and reporting. It is argued that being exposed to a high secular environment had a large effect on the accounting practices of JIB and the regulatory behaviour towards the bank. It is also argued that the adoption of AAOIFI standards in 2001 in Jordan was mainly the result of result of pressure within JIB to achieve its objectives, most importantly, presenting the Islamic status of the bank. However, the adoption of AAOIFI standards led to an enhanced level of disclosure by Islamic banks in Jordan. Regarding the need for special accounting practices, it is argued that Islamic religion affects the constructions of and perceptions about major transactions undertaken by JIB; however, for some transactions, as practised and perceived in JIB, this does not necessarily imply the need for different accounting treatments. Thus, conventional accounting standards such as International Accounting Standards would be relevant to deal with these transactions as practised and perceived in JIB. This is mainly due to highly secular effect on JIB practices. However, this is not to rule out the need for special accounting standards such as AAOIFI. It is argued that for some other transactions, AAOIFI standards are better able to deal with them in the way they are practised and perceived in JIB, and the adoption of these standards would reduce the agency problem associated with investment deposits in JIB.</p
... This misconception has often discouraged church leaders or religious organisations from implementing sound control policies because they do not want to appear suspicious (Ahiabor and Mensah 2013). Laughlin (1988) argued that the Church of England regards accounting as an activity that should not interfere with the more important spiritual endeavours. Churches with inadequate financial structure subjected their operations to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audits and public humility (Ekhomu, 2015). ...
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This paper studied the financial accountability and internal control practices at Holy Spirit Catholic Parish in Lusaka, Zambia. The concept of financial accountability and internal control is just as relevant to churches as it is to profit seeking organizations. The embezzlement and mismanagement of funds from religious organisations particularly in churches is becoming common. Such disgraceful acts have raised a lot of concerns about the effectiveness of internal control systems in churches. Financial accountability is being responsibility for the way finances are used and managed. Internal controls are the mechanisms, rules and procedures implemented in an organization to ensure the integrity of financial and accounting information, promote accountability and prevent fraud. Financial Accountability and internal controls are some of the themes that dominate discussions in the media around the world. These are used to measure credibility in our time. This research is a cross-sectional case study which took a Pragmatic approach and mixed method research methodology was used. Purposive (expert) sampling was used and data was gathered from respondents using questionnaires and interviews. Quantitative data was analysed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) and qualitative data was analysed using content analysis. From the results of the study, the findings suggest that, the internal control systems did not operate effectively and efficiently to ensure that there is good financial accountability. There was laxity in the internal controls in finance management, these internal controls practiced by the respondent parish can be improved. A financial accountability and internal control measure model which the researcher has recommended for implemented has been designed. It has four dimensions of internal controls (preventive controls, detective controls, authorization controls and corrective controls) with financial accountability as the expected outcome.
... attributes and 1 "the may" attribute (jaiz) for the apostle which was written by Imam Abu Abdillah (Laughlin 1988(Laughlin , 1990. The accounting practice is separated from the spiritual life. ...
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Accounting is a set of practices that are influenced by the world and social realities. Therefore, the values of people's beliefs are needed in its application. The problem in this study is how accounting practices are based on the Ahlussunnah Wal-Jama'ah (Aswaja) values. This study aims to construct accounting practices derived from the values of Ahlussunnah Wal-Jama'ah. This research used an interpretive paradigm and a case study approach at the Nahdlatul Ulama College. The data analysis modified the Seidel and Yin approaches. The findings of this study are the basic values of Ahlussunnah Wal-Jama'ah An-Nahdliyah have an impact on social behavior which consists of the values of I'tidal, Tawassuth, Tawazun, Tasamuh and amar ma'ruf nahi munkar. Accounting that reflects these values includes obedience to principles, conformity of the budget with work programs and strategic plans, clarity of the accounting system, use of the concept of budget deliberation, fikroh islahiyah, principle of balance, accounting markaziyah, taqiya, and honesty.
... El cargo y descargo y la partida doble han sido analizados, tanto en el contexto general como particular (Lemarchand, 1994;Álvarez-Dardet & Capelo, 2003;Sangster & Rossi, 2018), considerando tanto sus aportaciones técnicas como sus funciones en la práctica social (Laughlin, 1988;Napier, 2006). En este ámbito, los trabajos analizados pueden ser agrupados en dos líneas: una, en la que se muestra la influencia de la contabilidad en el entorno; y otra, en la que el entorno influye en la contabilidad. ...
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The change in the accounting method from single entry to double entry in the 15th century has been tried to explain by the influence of some different issues such as the appearance of capitalism or by the contact of Italy with other peoples. However, none of them has been able to do so satisfactorily. That is why this work, tries to show how this accounting change could be pushed by a paradigm shift: the philosophical and religious perception of the world and its passed from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will be seen using a qualitative methodology which helps to know how the methods of charge and discharge and double entry respond to the prevailing ways of thinking in which they developed. The first one, can be associated with a Theocentric thought, typical of the Middle Ages, and the second one, double entry bookkeeping, philosophical viewpoint that are the are the most important entity in the world, which is characteristic of the Renaissance. El cambio del método contable de la partida simple a la doble en el siglo XV se ha intentado explicar por la influencia de diferentes factores como la aparición del capitalismo o por el contacto de Italia con otros pueblos. Sin embargo, ninguno de ellos aisladamente, lo ha podido hacer de forma satisfactoria. Por lo tanto, utilizando una metodología cualitativa, este trabajo intenta arrojar luz indagando cómo este cambio contable se pudo deber a un cambio en la percepción filosófica y religiosa del mundo, al pasarse de la Edad Media al Renacimiento. Se verá cómo los métodos del cargo y descargo y de la partida doble responden a las formas de pensamiento imperantes en el que se desarrollaron. En consecuencia, que partida simple se puede asociar a un pensamiento Teocéntrico, propio de la Edad Media, y que la partida doble se puede relacionar con el Antropocéntrico característico del Renacimiento.
... Em organizações religiosas, as barreiras existentes para a realização de atividades contábeis, apesar de serem consideradas desejáveis para a continuidade organizacional (Irvine, 2005;Lightbody, 2001), podem ser consideradas maiores pela discriminação entre atividades consideradas espirituais (sagradas) e não espirituais (seculares). Essa diferenciação implicaria na priorização das atividades espirituais e relegação das atividades seculares por serem, por vezes, consideradas irrelevantes para o funcionamento da organização (Abdul-Rahman & Goddard, 1998), ou além: pela visão de que as atividades seculares não devem interferir nas atividades sacras (Laughlin, 1988). ...
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PREFACE The second edition of ICAFI was dedicated to the reflection on Accounting, Finance and Technologies in Learning Organization. This was the specific challenge of the 2021 conference edition, and different and complementary perspectives on this theme were sought from multidisciplinary fields. Thus, in the second edition of ICAFI 2021, we got dozens of interesting approaches and contributions related to Learning Organization, which is a very dynamic and challenging environment, with an international perspective. We addressed accounting, finance and technology in learning organizations, with inspirational sessions related to artificial intelligence, digital assets and reporting of social and corporate responsibility. The parallel sessions covered topics related to the history of accounting, standardization, taxation, sustainability, management control, performance evaluation, social economy, corporate governance models, among others. Adapting to the demands placed on us by Pandemic Covid 19, this year's ICAFI 2021 took place digitally. However, the digital environment, which seemed like an obstacle before, turned out to be an excellent way to stimulate knowledge sharing and strengthen community spirit. Now and looking to the near future, we will be back in June 30 - July 1, 2022 with the third edition of ICAFI, fully focused on Sustainability Business and Innovation. We will be waiting for you! See our website for more details: On the following pages you will find the submissions presented at ICAFI 2021. They are sorted alphabetically after the first author's last name.
The ‘political interpretivist’ works of H. G. Gadamer and Charles Taylor are applied and introduced to accountability and business ethics research. They provide an analysis of the role of language and practical reason that deepens our appreciation of discourse theory. They argue that language is not so much a designative device for recording and communicating information. Rather, language is the framework of all our knowledge and experience in, and of, the world. Interpretivism is used to engage with other business ethicists and political theorists such as Cedric Dawkins (Bus Ethics Q 25(1): 1–28, 2015), Jacques Derrida ((Spivak FP, trans.), Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), Jurgen Habermas (1976) and Ernest Laclau and Chantel Mouffe (Hegemony and socialist strategy: towards a radical democratic politics, Verso Trade (first edition 1981), 2014). Interpretivist analysis of language can enhance business ethics. For example, Habermas searches for a precise decision using discourse ethics which is challenged by Gadamer’s and Taylor’s interpretivism. Language is like a work of art that puts us in touch with others and the world. Interpretivist thinking is relevant for business ethics as it enters global settings where workers, managers and corporations must embrace other cultures. Issues of fairness such as closeness, openness and justice then follow.
Accounting and business must begin the task of exploring the politics of difference and fullness in a world of half-understood social domination and theistic evaluation. For reasons like these theorists inspired by agonism and postmodern ideology argue that their approach is superior to ‘consensually oriented approaches.’ It is claimed that agonistic pluralism is not necessarily resolution of ideological differences but is about imagining, developing and supporting democratic processes wherein these differences can be recognised and engaged (Tregidga and Milne, Crit Perspect Account, forthcoming, 2020).
Purpose This paper investigates the relationship between accounting and accountability practices in Muslim secondary schools in Tanzania using Bourdieusian perspective. The purpose of this paper is to address this issue. Design/methodology/approach In-depth interviews were conducted with school owners, teachers, accountants, an imam and leaders of Muslim organizations. Corroborative evidence was gathered through review of documentary sources. The data were analyzed using a mapping approach. Findings The findings show that powerful actors in the schools studied proactively selected accounting practices that supported their particular doxa of survival, access or legitimacy. Also, Fiisabilillah is identified as an existential doxa, and this was found to be more influential than individual accountability doxa and responsible for adherence to work among weak agents despite an inappropriate environment. As a result, accounting practices become “rhetoric” and play a minimal role in discharging both “sacred” and “secular” accountability to both human beings and God. Practical implications The findings suggest that accounting practices must be understood in the context of the socioeconomic and political settings in which the organization operates. Originality/value Most studies of accounting and accountability have focused on developed countries. This is one of the few studies to explore the phenomenon in the context of Muslim schools in a developing country.
This paper explores the manner in which a range of issues relating to emotional propensities – including ethics, trust, fear and institutional exploitation of these – shape perceptions about the Islamic banking industry in the UK. Much of the ethos and practice of Shariah that originally defined such activities have been lost amidst the hegemony of global capital(ism) and a lack of innovation, transparency and social concern have been cited as potential sources of alienation for consumers otherwise likely to be interested in Islamic financial services. However, understanding regarding the impact of emotion in this context is very limited, despite potentially representing motivations for a broad range of financial decision-making. A critical accounting framework is used here to interpret evidence from a series of 32 interviews conducted with UK-based Muslims. The analysis unmasks the hidden interests of Islamic banks and suggests that enhanced stake-holder participation might be transformational in terms of meeting societal needs provided that the complex, but powerful, impact of emotional propensities is recognised.
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Purpose – To introduce the three papers in the special section, an overflow from a recent special issue of the journal. Design/methodology/approach – Provides a brief review of the papers. Findings – The three papers focus on a common concern: the sacred secular dichotomy that has been employed in studies of accounting in religious organisations. Originality/value – This introduction focuses on papers that encourage interdisciplinary research in accounting that draws specifically on theological insights.
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Purpose The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the sociology‐of‐science type of accounting literature, addressing how accounting knowledge is established, advanced and extended. Design/methodology/approach The research question is answered through the example of research into linkages between accounting and religion. Adopting an actor‐network theory (ANT) approach, the paper follows the actors involved in the construction of accounting as an academic discipline through the controversies in which they engage to develop knowledge. Findings The paper reveals that accounting knowledge is established, advanced and developed through the ongoing mobilisation of nonhumans (journals) who can enrol other humans and nonhumans. It shows that knowledge advancement, establishment and development is more contingent on network breadth than on research paradigms, which appear as side‐effects of positioning vis‐à‐vis a community. Originality/value The originality of this paper is twofold. First, ANT is applied to accounting knowledge, whereas the accounting literature applies it to the spread of management accounting ideas, methods and practices. Second, an original methodology for data collection is developed by inviting authors from the network to give a reflexive account of their writings at the time they joined the network. Well diffused in sociology and philosophy, such an approach is, albeit, original in accounting research.
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The concept of internal control is just as relevant to churches as it is to profit seeking organizations. Inadequate internal controls can hinder the management responsibilities of church officers and employees and place them in a position where they may be tempted to engage in questionable activities and accounting practices, or could subject individuals to unwarranted accusations of such activities. This study was designed to evaluate the effects of church size as well as the polity and hierarchical structure of denominations on systems of internal control. A questionnaire was used to collect data regarding internal controls currently in place in churches. The internal control evaluation scores were found to be significantly different based on church size. Three major denominations with different types of church polity and differing hierarchical structures were included in the study. The internal control evaluation scores were found to be significantly different based on denomination. This suggests that the polity and hierarchical structure of a denomination affect the quality of a local church's system of internal control.
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Foucault identified the roots of governmentality in religious beliefs and religious history with its genealogical core the equivalent of pastoral power, the art of governing people by relying on a dualistic logic; individualization and totalization. This technology of power arose and matured within the Roman Catholic Church and provided a model for many states in the achievement and exercise of power. Informed by the work of Foucault on pastoral power the present work examines the genealogical core of governmentality in the context of the Roman Catholic Church at a time of great crisis in the 15th century when the Roman Catholic Church was undergoing reform instituted by Pope Eugenius IV (1431–1447). The contributions of accounting to pastoral power are shown in this study to have been pivotal in restoring the Church's standing and influence. Accounting was one of the technologies that allowed the bishops to control both the diocese as a whole and each priest, to subjugate the priests to the bishops’ authority and, thereby, to govern the diocese through a never-ending extraction of truth.
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Purpose: Benedictine abbeys are highly stable organisations that have existed for almost 1,500 years. The extant literature ascribes this stability in part to the notion of Benedictine governance, which centres on the Rule of St. Benedict. An integral part of Benedictine governance is the cellarer, who plays a role comparable to that of a chief financial officer (CFO) in a traditional corporation. Unlike corporations, however, in which the CFO has emerged into a more important role over the past few decades, the cellarer has been an official position in Benedictine abbeys since the introduction of the Rule of St. Benedict in the sixth century. The present paper explores the cellarer’s role and assesses which parts of it could be reasonably transferred to the corporate world. Design/methodology/approach: Informed by organisational role theory, we conducted a single case study in an Austrian Benedictine abbey. We used group discussions and semistructured interviews as the main research instruments. Findings: We find that the cellarer’s behaviour shows strong signs of stewardship, which could serve as a role model for corporate CFOs. However, because of the studied abbey’s situation of financial distress, the cellarer also experienced severe role conflicts rooted in his obedience to the abbot, the high involvement of the abbey in the local economy, and the cellarer’s conscience as a Christian monk. From these findings, we describe those aspects of the cellarer’s role that should thus be avoided for corporate CFOs. Research limitations/implications: The presented findings are based on a single case study. Therefore, because of the contextual factors idiosyncratic to the abbey under investigation, the results must be interpreted with care. Nevertheless, the findings explain the cellarer’s role and depict its potential benefits for the corporate world, which should induce further research. Originality/value: This is the first paper to explore in-depth the cellarer’s role as well as one of the first to transfer the potential benefits of single roles rooted in Benedictine governance to the corporate world.
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Purpose – This paper aims to analyze how performance may be defined in the context of a religious organization. The authors do so by studying the case of a Benedictine abbey. Design/methodology/approach – Using an etymologically derived understanding of performance, and predominantly based on the Regula Benedicti (the central guideline for Benedictine monks), the authors first conceptually develop an understanding of performance in Benedictine abbeys. The authors then apply this understanding in a single case study. Findings – The authors found that in order to comply with the Benedictine mission laid out in the Regula Benedicti, Benedictine abbeys need to balance sacred and secular goals. The authors also derived six key actions in order to accomplish these goals. The case study shows that an imbalance in these key actions may cause severe (financial) distress. Research limitations/implications – The study provides an alternative framing of the term “performance” and further evidence that only a combined pursuit of sacred and secular goals seems useful for religious organizations. Researchers interested in religious organizations might find the conceptual approach and findings useful to analyze performance in such organizations. Practical implications – Benedictine abbeys and other religious organizations may find the analysis valuable to critically analyze their current strategies and focal activities. Moreover, this paper’s results might also be worthwhile for other faith-based or third-sector organizations when seeking an alternative framing of performance. Originality/value – This paper provides a new framing of “performance” and is the first to analyze what performance might mean in the context of a Benedictine abbey.
Purpose – The paper aims to extend research which has sought to explain Britain's early success as an industrial power by identifying the influence of religious doctrine of the Dissenting Protestant churches on the development of accounting practices in the factory. The concern is not with specific accounting practices but with the social and moral environment which provided the incentives and permissions that encouraged late eighteenth century English industrialists to develop the practices that they used. Design/methodology/approach – The paper draws on the highly influential writings of social theorists such Weber, Sombart and Tawney to identify the religious doctrines that both motivated and justified the rational, ideological business practices of prominent businessmen. Findings – The rise of accounting as a powerful tool of control and discipline was significantly assisted by the teaching of the Dissenting Protestant churches on “calling”. Religious beliefs provided permissions, justifications and incentives which underpinned the entrepreneurial energies, opportunities and successes of the early industrialists. Accounting could be seen to assume almost the aura and nascent legitimacy of a religious practice, a means of sanctifying practices which were otherwise reviled by social elites. Originality/value – Despite encouragement from accounting researchers for histories of accounting which give greater credence to the reflexivity between accounting and society, this has yet to find a significant presence amongst the searches for beginnings in cost accounting where economic and management factors remain the overwhelming focus. Religious beliefs are shown to have been especially influential in the adoption of accounting practices by early industrialists who were frequently members of the Dissenting Protestant churches.
Professor Richard Laughlin is renowned for applying critical insights from the German philosopher, Jurgen Habermas. His middle range research approach has explored many accounting problems such as public–private partnerships, health care reforms and how accounting impacts cultural issues. Laughlin's work re-conceptualises accountability in terms of cultural analysis, language and systems theory. Users of his work may encounter issues associated with: (1) understanding how to judge assertoric statements concerning various truth claims; (2) exploring the dichotomy between the secular and sacred; and (3) examining whether language simply designates meaning or opens us to interpretive new pathways.
Published over two decades ago, “Environmental Disturbances and Organizational Transitions and Transformations: Some Alternative Models” (Laughlin, 1991), presents a comprehensive view of what choices may be available to organizations in navigating the change process. Laughlin's discussion also provides some rationale for why organizations may pursue particular pathways in response to environmental disturbances. Responding to his call to future researchers, the current paper builds upon Laughlin's work by drawing on Social Network Theory (SNT) as offering an explanation about how the dynamic processes implicit in his framework may operate in effecting change within organizations and as a consequence, why particular pathways may be adopted. While Laughlin's initial premise and consequent contentions are grounded largely in critical theory, in augmenting his framework with insights derived from SNT, this paper contends that the dynamic processes invoked in response to environmental disturbances are capable of being operationalized, generalized and tested. Laughlin's framework therefore offers a foundation for a positivist frame of reference, pointing to the amenability of the framework to further investigation from researchers from a diverse range of research traditions.