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Books to be practiced: Memory, the power of the visual, and the success of accounting

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  • Quattrone, Paolo
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    Abstract

    The aim of this paper is to explore the conditions which allow the emergence of accounting as a performable technique that can spread successfully across economies and societies. Drawing on insights offered by studies on the art of memory, Actor-Network Theory, and that broader branch of history known as the history of the book, it is argued that the emergence and spread of accounting can be understood by studying the relationships among four interrelated aspects: the nature of accounting as a method of classification for the organisation of thinking and knowledge; its reliance on images and its visual impact; its 'orthopraxis' nature, which offers a workable space and time; and the relationships between accounting and the medium through in which it materialises. The combination of these four features explains how it is that accounting is a practice which is homogeneous enough to be recognised as autonomous and heterogeneous enough to attract diversity and create difference. I was motivated to study these issues after examining two early accounting treatises: the Indirizzo degli Economi, by the Benedictine, Pietra (1586) [Pietra, A. (1586). Indirizzo degli economi o sia ordinatissima istruttione da regolamente formare qualunque scrittura in un libro doppio. Aggiuntovi l'essemplare di un Libro nobile co 'l suo Giornale ad uso della Congregatione Cassinese dell'Ordine in San Benedetto. Mantova: Francesco Osanna]; and the Trattato del libro doppio domestico col suo essemplare, by the Jesuit, Flori (1636), [Flori, L. (1636). Trattato del modo di tenere il libro doppio domestico col suo essemplare composto dal P. Lodovico Flori della Compagnia di Gesù per uso delle case e dei collegi della medesima Compagnia nel Regno di Sicilia, in Palermo, per Decio Cirillo]. Along with studies examining the emergence of modern management as a result of an economic need for rationalisation, the paper offers material for reflecting on a concomitant rationale which views innovations in the method of organisation, visual presentation, medium of communication, and praxis, as the mayor forces in the diffusion of accounting in both historical and contemporary settings.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Accounting, Organizations and Society.

    Volume (Year): 34 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 1 (January)
    Pages: 85-118

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:aosoci:v:34:y:2009:i:1:p:85-118

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    Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/aos

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    Keywords: accounting; organizations; society;

    References

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    1. Macintosh, Norman B. & Shearer, Teri & Thornton, Daniel B. & Welker, Michael, 2000. "Accounting as simulacrum and hyperreality: perspectives on income and capital," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 13-50, January.
    2. Chandler, Alfred Jr. & Daems, Herman, 1979. "Administrative coordination, allocation and monitoring: A comparative analysis of the emergence of accounting and organization in the U.S.A. and Europe," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 4(1-2), pages 3-20, January.
    3. Thompson, Grahame, 1991. "Is accounting rhetorical? Methodology, Luca Pacioli and printing," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 16(5-6), pages 572-599.
    4. Hopwood, Anthony G., 1983. "On trying to study accounting in the contexts in which it operates," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 8(2-3), pages 287-305, May.
    5. Nahapiet, Janine, 1988. "The rhetoric and reality of an accounting change: A study of resource allocation," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 333-358, June.
    6. Ditillo, Angelo, 2004. "Dealing with uncertainty in knowledge-intensive firms: the role of management control systems as knowledge integration mechanisms," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 29(3-4), pages 401-421.
    7. Colwyn Jones, T. & Dugdale, David, 2002. "The ABC bandwagon and the juggernaut of modernity," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 27(1-2), pages 121-163.
    8. Hoskin, Keith W. & Macve, Richard H., 1986. "Accounting and the examination: A genealogy of disciplinary power," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 11(2), pages 105-136, March.
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    10. Edward Arrington, C. & Schweiker, William, 1992. "The rhetoric and rationality of accounting research," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 17(6), pages 511-533, August.
    11. Quattrone, Paolo, 2004. "Accounting for God: accounting and accountability practices in the Society of Jesus (Italy, XVI-XVII centuries)," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 29(7), pages 647-683, October.
    12. Carmona, Salvador & Ezzamel, Mahmoud & Gutierrez, Fernando, 1997. "Control and cost accounting practices in the Spanish Royal Tobacco Factory," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 22(5), pages 411-446, July.
    13. Ahrens, Thomas & Chapman, Christopher S., 2007. "Management accounting as practice," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 32(1-2), pages 1-27.
    14. Hoskin, Keith W. & Macve, Richard H., 1988. "The genesis of accountability: The west point connections," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 37-73, January.
    15. Miller, Peter & O'Leary, Ted, 1987. "Accounting and the construction of the governable person," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 12(3), pages 235-265, April.
    16. Graves, O. Finley & Flesher, Dale L. & Jordan, Robert E., 1996. "Pictures and the bottom line: The television epistemology of U.S. annual reports," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 57-88, January.
    17. Vollmer, Hendrik, 2007. "How to do more with numbers: Elementary stakes, framing, keying, and the three-dimensional character of numerical signs," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 32(6), pages 577-600, August.
    18. Thompson, G. F., 1998. "Encountering economics and accounting: some skirmishes and engagements," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 23(3), pages 283-323, April.
    19. Quattrone, Paolo & Hopper, Trevor, 2005. "A 'time-space odyssey': management control systems in two multinational organisations," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 30(7-8), pages 735-764.
    20. Preston, Alistair M., 2006. "Enabling, enacting and maintaining action at a distance: An historical case study of the role of accounts in the reduction of the Navajo herds," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 559-578, August.
    21. Suzuki, Tomo, 2003. "The epistemology of macroeconomic reality: The Keynesian Revolution from an accounting point of view," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 28(5), pages 471-517, July.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:
    1. Lise Justesen & Jan Mouritsen, 2009. "The triple visual: Translations between photographs, 3-D visualizations and calculations," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 22(6), pages 973-990, August.
    2. Alaric Bourgoin & Fabian Muniesa, 2012. "Making a consultancy slideshow 'rock solid': a study of pragmatic efficacy," Post-Print halshs-00702224, HAL.
    3. Pezé, Stéphan, 2012. "Controlling Managers ‘Becoming’: The Practices of Identity Regulation," Economics Papers from University Paris Dauphine 123456789/10084, Paris Dauphine University.
    4. Claire France Picard & Sylvain Durocher & Yves Gendron, 2013. "From Meticulous Professionals To Superheroes Of The Business World: A Historical Portrait Of A Cultural Change In The Field Of Accountancy," Post-Print hal-00993019, HAL.
    5. Pollock, Neil & D’Adderio, Luciana, 2012. "Give me a two-by-two matrix and I will create the market: Rankings, graphic visualisations and sociomateriality," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 37(8), pages 565-586.
    6. Jane Davison, 2011. "Barthesian perspectives on accounting communication and visual images of professional accountancy," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 24(2), pages 250-283, February.
    7. Vassili Joannides, 2012. "Accounterability and the problematics of accountability," Grenoble Ecole de Management (Post-Print) hal-00676561, HAL.
    8. Davison, Jane, 2014. "Visual rhetoric and the case of intellectual capital," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 20-37.
    9. Pezé, Stéphan, 2012. "How do organizations control managers ongoing identity? A study of micro-practices of identity regulation," Economics Papers from University Paris Dauphine 123456789/10083, Paris Dauphine University.
    10. Davison, Jane, 2010. "[In]visible [in]tangibles: Visual portraits of the business élite," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 165-183, February.
    11. Whittington, Richard, 2011. "The practice turn in organization research: Towards a disciplined transdisciplinarity," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 183-186, April.
    12. Lise Justesen & Jan Mouritsen, 2011. "Effects of actor-network theory in accounting research," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 24(2), pages 161-193, February.
    13. Jane Davison & Samantha Warren, 2009. "Imag[in]ing accounting and accountability," Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 22(6), pages 845-857, August.
    14. Vassili Joannides & Stéphane Jaumier, 2011. "Accounterability ou l'accountability par la bande," Grenoble Ecole de Management (Post-Print) hal-00645359, HAL.

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