Accounting, paper shadows and the stigmatised poor
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.
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