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Calculating Profit: A Historical Perspective on the Development of Capitalism


  • Toms, Steven


The paper introduces the notion of different methods of calculating and analysing profitability as signatures of capitalism at different stages of development. Interactions between the development of the productive forces and the socialisation of capital ownership jointly impact on these signatures, such that profit calculations are historically contingent. These interactions take the identification of capitalism beyond simple associations with the presence or absence of double-entry bookkeeping (DEB), the capital account or return on capital calculations. Profit calculations are implicated in the process of transition from feudalism to capitalism by enabling the private enforcement of profit levels in excess of legally regulated interest rates or through fairly remunerated labour. The modern usage of ROCE is linked to the development of the productive forces and the socialisation of capital ownership.

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  • Toms, Steven, 2008. "Calculating Profit: A Historical Perspective on the Development of Capitalism," The York Management School Working Papers 41, The York Management School, University of York.
  • Handle: RePEc:wrc:ymswp1:41

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Toms, Steven, 2005. "Financial control, managerial control and accountability: evidence from the British Cotton Industry, 1700-2000," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 30(7-8), pages 627-653.
    2. Michael C. Jensen, 2010. "The Modern Industrial Revolution, Exit, and the Failure of Internal Control Systems," Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Morgan Stanley, vol. 22(1), pages 43-58.
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    8. Stefano Zambon, 1996. "Accounting and business economics traditions: a missing European connection?," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(3), pages 401-411.
    9. Roy Church & Trevor Baldwin & Bob Berry, 1994. "Accounting for profitability at the Consett Iron Company before 1914: measurement, sources, and uses," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 47(4), pages 703-724, November.
    10. Bryer, R. A., 1993. "The late nineteenth-century revolution in financial reporting: Accounting for the rise of investor or managerial capitalism?," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 18(7-8), pages 649-690.
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    12. Bryer, R. A., 2005. "A Marxist accounting history of the British industrial revolution: a review of evidence and suggestions for research," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 25-65, January.
    13. Steve Toms & Mike Wright, 2002. "Corporate Governance, Strategy and Structure in British Business History, 1950-2000," Business History, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(3), pages 91-124.
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    Cited by:

    1. Yannick Lemarchand & Laure Pineau-Defois & Cheryl Mcwatters, 2011. "Comptes et récits de la maison Chaurand, retour sur les liens entre comptabilité et capitalisme," Post-Print hal-00650546, HAL.
    2. Toms, Steven & Shepherd, Alice, 2013. "Creative accounting in the British Industrial Revolution: Cotton manufacturers and the ‘Ten Hours’ Movement," MPRA Paper 51478, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Markus Lampe & Paul Sharp, 2017. "ÔRationalÕ Farmers and the Emergence of Modern Accounting in Danish Dairying," Working Papers 0115, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    4. Edwards, John Richard & Dean, Graeme & Clarke, Frank, 2009. "Merchants' accounts, performance assessment and decision making in mercantilist Britain," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 34(5), pages 551-570, July.
    5. Aysem Mert, 2012. "Partnerships and the Privatisation of Environmental Governance: On Myths, Forces of Nature and Other Inevitabilities," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 21(4), pages 475-498, November.
    6. Robertson, Jeffrey & Funnell, Warwick, 2012. "The Dutch East-India Company and accounting for social capital at the dawn of modern capitalism 1602–1623," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 37(5), pages 342-360.
    7. Gervais, Pierre, 2014. "Early modern merchant strategies and the historicization of market practices," economic sociology_the european electronic newsletter, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, vol. 15(3), pages 19-29.
    8. Toms, Steven & Fleischman, Richard K., 2015. "Accounting fundamentals and accounting change: Boulton & Watt and the Springfield Armory," Accounting, Organizations and Society, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 1-20.
    9. Toms, Steven, 2014. "‘Cold, Calculating Political Economy’: Fixed costs, the Rate of Profit and the Length of the Working Day in the Factory Act Debates, 1832-1847," MPRA Paper 54408, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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