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In search of consensus: The role of accounting in the definition and reproduction of dominant interests

Anne-Laure Farjaudon and Jérémy Morales

CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES ON ACCOUNTING, 2013, vol. 24, issue 2, 154-171

Abstract: This article examines the role of accounting in the manufacture of consensus. Consensus building is often considered a central value for rational decision-making and management. However, more than a democratic confrontation of vantage points, the quest for consensus is a way to discourage conflict and resistance. Our main argument is that accounting and consensus play central roles in processes of definition and the social reproduction of dominant interests. Accounting acts to promote some stakes and strategies (and silence others), as if they were collective and disinterested, which makes them more powerful in debates that deny struggles and asymmetries in positions of power, as well as increases legitimacy by creating an illusion of participation. We illustrate these processes through a case study in which we document the intersection between two fields of knowledge, marketing and accounting, that compete for a monopoly on the definition of value and the ability to speak for the organisation. This analysis draws on Bourdieu's conceptualisation of symbolic domination to highlight how powerful actors secure influence while avoiding contestation. Accounting produces symbolic violence that consolidates asymmetries in positions of power by shaping what is consensual and what is not so that dominant interests are reproduced with the consent of those who have most to lose in the process.

Keywords: Critical; Public interest; Intellectual capital; Management control; Symbolic domination; Critique; Intérêt public; Capital intellectuel; Contrôle de gestion; 批判性; 公共利益; 智力资本; 管理控制; Crítica; Interés Público; Capital intelectual; Control de Gestión (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2013
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