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Accrual accounting representations in the public sector—A case of autopoiesis

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  • Gårseth-Nesbakk, Levi

Abstract

This paper is based on a case study of an accrual accounting change endeavor at central government level in Norway. The case represents alternative accrual accounting solutions and thought. Earlier studies have discussed the (hyper) reality of accrual representations. This study contributes by examining why and in what form alternative accounting thought emerges, and what this means for accounting theory. The discussion stands out from prior studies by relying on autopoiesis as a frame of reference and centering on public sector as the empirical basis of inquiry. This enables a new way of understanding alternative accounting thought, founded on interrelated and complex organizational structures with blurred boundaries and potentially multiple identities. Such a form of autopoietic accounting is argued to represent something new, while still maintaining and representing old structures and identities. This paper illustrates e.g. how the debits represent something new and interrelations with other accounting environments, whereas the way of accounting for credits helps to preserve internal authority, capital and organizational structures. Documents and interviews constitute the empirical material.

Suggested Citation

  • Gårseth-Nesbakk, Levi, 2011. "Accrual accounting representations in the public sector—A case of autopoiesis," CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES ON ACCOUNTING, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 247-258.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:crpeac:v:22:y:2011:i:3:p:247-258
    DOI: 10.1016/j.cpa.2010.10.004
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