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Accounting, paper shadows and the stigmatised poor


  • Walker, Stephen P.


The social implications of accounting are explored through an historical study of spoiled identities in state welfare systems. The processing, recording, classification and communication inherent in the accounting practices deployed in such systems have the potential to (re)construct identities, inform perceptions of self and impact on the social relationships of the welfare claimant. The paper examines these potentialities through an investigation of the accounting regime attending the system of poor relief in Victorian England and Wales. Informed primarily by the work of Goffman it is suggested that accounting processes comprised degradation ceremonies which compounded the stigmatisation of the recipient of relief, accounting classifications served to inscribe existing and create additional spoiled identities of the pauper, and individualized forms of accounting disclosure compromised the management of stigma by the poor.

Suggested Citation

  • Walker, Stephen P., 2008. "Accounting, paper shadows and the stigmatised poor," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 33(4-5), pages 453-487.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:aosoci:v:33:y:2008:i:4-5:p:453-487

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Miller, Peter, 1990. "On the interrelations between accounting and the state," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 315-338.
    2. Walker, Stephen P., 2004. "Expense, social and moral control. Accounting and the administration of the old poor law in England and Wales," Journal of Accounting and Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 85-127.
    3. Volinn, Ilse J., 1989. "Issues of definitions and their implications: AIDS and leprosy," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 29(10), pages 1157-1162, January.
    4. Neu, Dean & Wright, Michael, 1992. "Bank failures, stigma management and the accounting establishment," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 17(7), pages 645-665, October.
    5. Hopwood, Anthony G., 1994. "Accounting and everyday life: An introduction," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 299-301, April.
    6. Peter Miller, 1998. "The margins of accounting," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 7(4), pages 605-621.
    7. Burchell, Stuart & Clubb, Colin & Hopwood, Anthony & Hughes, John & Nahapiet, Janine, 1980. "The roles of accounting in organizations and society," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 5(1), pages 5-27, January.
    8. Boyer,George R., 1990. "An Economic History of the English Poor Law, 1750–1850," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521364799, October.
    9. Hopwood, Anthony G., 1985. "The tale of a committee that never reported: Disagreements on intertwining accounting with the social," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 361-377, July.
    10. Miller, Peter & Napier, Christopher, 1993. "Genealogies of calculation," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 18(7-8), pages 631-647.
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    Cited by:

    1. Covaleski, Mark A. & Dirsmith, Mark W. & Weiss, Jane M., 2013. "The social construction, challenge and transformation of a budgetary regime: The endogenization of welfare regulation by institutional entrepreneurs," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 38(5), pages 333-364.
    2. repec:eee:aosoci:v:59:y:2017:i:c:p:44-57 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Walker, Stephen P., 2016. "Revisiting the roles of accounting in society," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 41-50.
    4. O'Regan, Philip, 2010. "'A dense mass of petty accountability': Accounting in the service of cultural imperialism during the Irish Famine, 1846-1847," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 35(4), pages 416-430, May.

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