Accounting activism and Bourdieu's 'collective intellectual' : reflections on the ICL case

Cooper, Christine and Coulson, Andrea B. (2014) Accounting activism and Bourdieu's 'collective intellectual' : reflections on the ICL case. Critical Perspectives On Accounting, 25 (3). pp. 237-254. ISSN 1045-2354 (

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The aim of this paper is to reflect upon the practice of accounting academics as 'collective intellectuals' - inspired by the actions and conception of Pierre Bourdieu. While accounting researchers have drawn upon Bourdieu's theoretical contributions on habitus, field and capital, little attention has been paid to his later, more critical ideas and practice of intervention post 1995. As a result, accounting research has yet to discover Bourdieu's work on the 'collective intellectual' and, thus, consider its contribution to our understanding of how accounting academics can participate in a form of activism against neoliberalism that would not be in contradiction with professional norms of rigorous research. Rather, activism could enhance academic research. Central to this paper is a reflection on a case of intervention involving a diverse collective of academics and activists who came together to launch a coordinated response to a large-scale industrial disaster in Scotland in 2004. The collective in question took various interventionary steps to campaign for a Public Inquiry into the disaster and seek justice and accountability for workers past and present. These steps are analysed with respect to the methods adopted and the work and practice of Bourdieu's Collective Intellectual.