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Accounting: an un-Australian activity?


  • Steve Evans
  • Kerry Jacobs


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to understand if accounting is an un-Australian activity, contrasting the notion of the bush and bushman present in popular Australian poetry and cultural myth with the notion expressed by Maltby of the link between the soul of the middle class and the practice of bookkeeping. The paper aims to explore the notion of a tension between what might be seen as indigenous values and the values of Western capitalism. Design/methodology/approach - The paper presents an analysis of Australian poetry to identify in this culturally significant media how the city and the technologies of accounting are negatively contrasted with the bush and the bushman. Since many Australians migrated from European countries, we might expect bookkeeping to claim a foundational place in the Australian soul. Findings - This literature shows bush dwellers as being exploited by those from the city, and city professionals such as the accountant and the lawyer as having lost their sense of self and soul. The sense of “other” reflected by the concept of the bush in Australian literature represents a tension between a structured and ordered European sense of self expressed by Maltby and an archetypical sense of self implied by the character of the bushman and connected to the Australian landscape, with its inherent but little acknowledged debt to the Aboriginal. In this landscape the absence of both accounting and the associated rhetoric of economic rationality allow other forms of rationality to emerge. Originality/value - This is the first time that poetry has been examined in relation to accounting. It shows a deep insight into the place of archetype of the accountant in Australian cultural identity. In addition it argues that responses to accounting can reflect underlying rhetorics of rationality.

Suggested Citation

  • Steve Evans & Kerry Jacobs, 2010. "Accounting: an un-Australian activity?," Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Emerald Group Publishing, vol. 7(3), pages 378-394, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:eme:qrampp:v:7:y:2010:i:3:p:378-394

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Maltby, Josephine, 1997. "Accounting and the soul of the middle class: Gustav Freytag's Soll und Haben," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 69-87, January.
    2. Beard, Victoria, 1994. "Popular culture and professional identity: Accountants in the movies," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 303-318, April.
    3. Choudhury, Nandan, 1988. "The seeking of accounting where it is not: Towards a theory of non-accounting in organizational settings," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 13(6), pages 549-557, October.
    4. Walker, S. P., 1998. "How to secure your husband's esteem. Accounting and private patriarchy in the British middle class household during the nineteenth century," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 23(5-6), pages 485-514.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. repec:eee:crpeac:v:39:y:2016:i:c:p:1-24 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:kap:jbuset:v:142:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s10551-016-3157-z is not listed on IDEAS

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    Accounting; Poetry; Culture; Australia;


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