Accounting and the third enclosure movement

Chabrak, Nihel and Cooper, Christine and Williams, Paul F. and Catchpowle, Lesley (2016) Accounting and the third enclosure movement. In: Asia-Pacific Interdisciplinary Research in Accounting Conference, 2016-07-12 - 2016-07-15, RMIT University.

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This paper is concerned with the march of global capitalism and how it is spreading across the globe touching every aspect of the lives of every human being on the planet through accounting. We argue that the accounting industry plays a role in creating very powerful images and understandings of the world and consequently, can serve as a potent driving force of capitalism. We draw upon and develop the literature on enclosure movements to demonstrate how the creation of accounting products (standards, rules, principles and so on) has been enclosed within the edifice of the IASB. Historically, the idea of enclosure was presented as a progressive, socially beneficial reform. The supporters of enclosure believed that “commons” operated against “sacred private property rights”. The first enclosure movement involved the enclosure of common (public) land. The second involved the enclosure of ideas through patents and copyrights. We argue that the institutional production of international accounting standards represents a third enclosure movement. This third movement is different from the other two in that it concerns the enclosure not only of the rules and principles of accounting and accounting knowledge (akin to the second enclosure movement), but of the enclosure of the body which is endowed with the right to be the legal producer of international accounting principles and rules.