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Accounting and the 'Art of Government': Margaret of Austria in Abruzzo (1539-86)


  • Massimo Sargiacomo


This paper analyses the accounting, accountability and disciplinary practices triggered by the Ordinances of 1571 in the feudal State of Abruzzo, whose sovereign was Margaret of Austria, daughter of Emperor Charles V. In a scenario stimulated by the ascent of mercantilist discourse and police schemes, new 'technologies of government' were forged to optimize the State's collection of receipts and to minimize fraud, rendering public officers accountable and their activities visible and controllable 'at a distance'. Using the 'governmentality' framework, this paper analyses the Ordinances that disciplined the activities of the primary finance/accounting and police officers in Abruzzo. The paper complements and extends the previous literature by illustrating the wide array of accounting- and non-accounting-based disciplinary techniques enforced by the sovereign in order to shape, align and even seduce the behaviour of officers/functionaries working in the State apparatus, and the general population. The analysis goes beyond the existing literature by unveiling the implementation of the hitherto undisclosed disciplinary double system of gratification-punishment advocated by Foucault, that also involved the population in the 'State control of the mechanisms of discipline'. In a related vein, the accounting system applied displays representational, translational and distributive properties, along with novel incentive schemes.

Suggested Citation

  • Massimo Sargiacomo, 2008. "Accounting and the 'Art of Government': Margaret of Austria in Abruzzo (1539-86)," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 17(4), pages 667-695.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:euract:v:17:y:2008:i:4:p:667-695 DOI: 10.1080/09638180802324401

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    Cited by:

    1. Michele Bigoni & Enrico Deidda Gagliardo & Warwick Funnel, 2014. "Contabilità e potere pastorale. Il contributo delle tecniche contabili al rafforzamento del potere della Chiesa nel XV secolo," CONTABILITA' E CULTURA AZIENDALE, FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 2014(1), pages 55-83.
    2. Massimo Sargiacomo & Luca Ianni & Antonio D'Andreamatteo, 2014. "Contabilità e Governo dell’Economia Agricola della Nazione: Arrigo Serpieri e la Riforma dei Consorzi di Bonifica," CONTABILITA' E CULTURA AZIENDALE, FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 2014(1), pages 85-111.

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