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Calculating profit: A historical perspective on the development of capitalism

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  • Toms, J.S.

Abstract

The paper introduces the notion of different methods of calculating and analysing profitability as signatures of capitalism at different stages of development. Its point of departure is Bryer's thesis of the capitalist mentality, which is subject to theoretical and empirical critique and developed in new directions. Interactions between the development of the productive forces and the socialisation of capital ownership jointly impact on these signatures, such that profit calculations are historically contingent. Aspects of feudalism, particularly restrictions on usury impacted upon accounting calculation, retarding their development. In the industrial revolution calculations reflected the scale and scope of specialised investment in plant, whilst the progressive socialisation of capital prompted a separate set of calculative practices. It was only in the 20th century, with the unification of large scale industry and finance capital that the modern notion of profitability as return on capital employed finally developed.

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Bibliographic Info

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

Volume (Year): 35 (2010)
Issue (Month): 2 (February)
Pages: 205-221

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Handle: RePEc:eee:aosoci:v:35:y:2010:i:2:p:205-221

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References

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  1. Stefano Zambon, 1996. "Accounting and business economics traditions: a missing European connection?," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(3), pages 401-411.
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  4. Bryer, R. A., 2005. "A Marxist accounting history of the British industrial revolution: a review of evidence and suggestions for research," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 25-65, January.
  5. Michael C. Jensen, 1994. "The Modern Industrial Revolution, Exit, And The Failure Of Internal Control Systems," Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Morgan Stanley, vol. 6(4), pages 4-23.
  6. Janette Rutterford, 2004. "From dividend yield to discounted cash flow: a history of UK and US equity valuation techniques," Accounting History Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(2), pages 115-149.
  7. Walsh, Eamonn J. & Stewart, Ross E., 1993. "Accounting and the construction of institutions: The case of a factory," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 18(7-8), pages 783-800.
  8. Bryer, R. A., 1993. "The late nineteenth-century revolution in financial reporting: Accounting for the rise of investor or managerial capitalism?," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 18(7-8), pages 649-690.
  9. Jones, Haydn, 1985. "Accounting, Costing, and Cost Estimation in Welsh Industry," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 0, number 9780708308820, September.
  10. Toms, J. S., 1998. "The supply of and demand for accounting information in an unregulated market: Examples from the lancashire cotton mills, 1855-1914," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 217-238, February.
  11. Zambon, Stefano & Zan, Luca, 2000. "Accounting relativism: the unstable relationship between income measurement and theories of the firm," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 25(8), pages 799-822, November.
  12. Steve Toms & Mike Wright, 2002. "Corporate Governance, Strategy and Structure in British Business History, 1950-2000," Business History, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(3), pages 91-124.
  13. Grassby,Richard, 1995. "The Business Community of Seventeenth-Century England," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521434508, October.
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Cited by:
  1. Toms, Steven & Shepherd, Alice, 2013. "Creative accounting in the British Industrial Revolution: Cotton manufacturers and the ‘Ten Hours’ Movement," MPRA Paper 51478, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Yannick Lemarchand & Laure Pineau-Defois & Cheryl Mcwatters, 2011. "Comptes et récits de la maison Chaurand, retour sur les liens entre comptabilité et capitalisme," Post-Print hal-00650546, HAL.
  3. Toms, Steven, 2014. "‘Cold, Calculating Political Economy’: Fixed costs, the Rate of Profit and the Length of the Working Day in the Factory Act Debates, 1832-1847," MPRA Paper 54408, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Aysem Mert, 2012. "Partnerships and the Privatisation of Environmental Governance: On Myths, Forces of Nature and Other Inevitabilities," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 21(4), pages 475-498, November.
  5. Edwards, John Richard & Dean, Graeme & Clarke, Frank, 2009. "Merchants' accounts, performance assessment and decision making in mercantilist Britain," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 34(5), pages 551-570, July.
  6. Robertson, Jeffrey & Funnell, Warwick, 2012. "The Dutch East-India Company and accounting for social capital at the dawn of modern capitalism 1602–1623," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 37(5), pages 342-360.

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