Political disputes and accounting

Grisard, Claudine and Annisette, Marcia (2018) Political disputes and accounting. In: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Accounting Conference 2018, 2018-07-11 - 2018-07-13.

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Abstract

This paper addresses the disputes emerging around the execution of an accounting test associated with the development of a controversial project. It shows how actors involved in the development of the project and in the drawing up of the accounting report can hamper accounting information in order to influence the decision made by others. Using Pragmatic Sociology of Critiques (Boltanski and Thévenot 2006; Boltanski 2011) our data reveals how a group of actors came to devise three different ways to corrupt the execution of an accounting test: 1 - by modifying the market conditions to make it harder to achieve the sales objectives, 2 - by choosing a specific model of profit calculation and 3 - by directly re-writing the data contained within the accounting report. Building on Burchell et al’s machine image of accounting (Burchell et al, 1980) we argue that these attempts by actors to corrupt the accounting numbers are grounded in their belief in the functioning of accounting as an answering machine – that is in the primacy of technical/calculative rationales in decision making This conception thus enables us to explore a tension between the answering machine and ammunition machine situations (Burchell at al. 1980).