Journal Article

Rationalization defeats itself: the limits to accounting's framing of economic life

Matthew Gill

in Socio-Economic Review

Published on behalf of Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics

Volume 6, issue 4, pages 587-609
Published in print October 2008 | ISSN: 1475-1461
Published online May 2008 | e-ISSN: 1475-147X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ser/mwn010
Rationalization defeats itself: the limits to accounting's framing of economic life

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This paper argues that the development of accounting can be well described as a process of rationalization. However, this need not imply the inexorable homogenization of economic activity, because beyond a certain point, rationalization defeats itself. Highly rationalized accounting leaves its users and creators disillusioned with it and inclined to exploit it as an abstract construct rather than to sustain it as a compelling system of knowledge. The paper explores the implications of this finding both for our understanding of how accounting influences economic life and for the future of the accounting profession.

Keywords: accounting; rationalization; framing; technocratism; disillusionment; M40 general accounting and auditing; P11 planning; coordination and reform of capitalist systems; Z13 economic sociology; economic anthropology

Journal Article.  9307 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy ; Corporate Social Responsibility ; Welfare Economics ; Political Economy ; Economic Sociology

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