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Strategies of visibility in contemporary surveillance settings: Insights from misconduct concealment in financial markets

Aziza Laguecir () and Bernard Leca

CRITICAL PERSPECTIVES ON ACCOUNTING, 2019, vol. 62, issue C, 39-58

Abstract: This paper complements critical accounting research on surveillance by reversing the dominant perspective focusing on surveilling actors, considering those surveilled. Building on Goffman’s dramaturgical analysis to examine how surveilled individuals present themselves (i.e., their strategies of visibility) to the surveilling audiences and drawing on the 2008 Société Générale (SocGen) trading scandal, we examine the strategies elaborated by the involved trader to initially conceal his misconduct and achieve a positive image vis-à-vis the multiple surveilling audiences. Our analysis shows how strategies of visibility are developed in such contexts by separating a front that complies with audiences’ expectations from a backstage where elements that are inconsistent with those expectations are concealed. The development of such strategies of visibility also requires the segregation of audiences to avoid inconsistencies between fronts. This study further points to the issue of coordination among multiple intersecting control systems. Finally, it reveals the importance of technical literacy in settings with sophisticated control systems, for both the surveilling party, to exert control, and the surveilled one, to manage their visibility. This paper incidentally outlines that while control is increasingly sophisticated and multiple, there is still space for agency. As shadow spaces remain, we are not yet in a control society itself à la Deleuze (1995).

Keywords: Surveillance; Strategies of visibility; Audience segregation; Fraud; Société Générale; Control of trading (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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DOI: 10.1016/

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Handle: RePEc:eee:crpeac:v:62:y:2019:i:c:p:39-58