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Making numbers calculable: A case study of the production of governable numbers
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, School of Business.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This paper builds upon a case study of the way organizational activities are represented with numbers in a performance report. A common notion in accounting literature is that accounting numbers enable “government at a distance” (Miller & Rose, 1990, p. 9) by making organizational activities visible, calculable and comparable. The paper shows that if organizational activities are to be represented with numbers that can be calculated and compared, these numbers must be made calculable. For this to happen, the represented activities must be framed in a certain way. Drawing on Goffman’s (1974) frame analysis, this paper suggests that organizational activities have to be keyed, i.e., transformed, into quanta and then re-keyed into generic concepts. Only then can the numbers be open for calculation by others and used as tool for governing. The paper also shows we should not overestimate the capacity of accounting numbers to enable government from a distance. 

Keyword [en]
Accounting numbers, performance measurement, calculability, comparability
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Business Administration
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-83433OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-83433DiVA: diva2:575729
Available from: 2012-12-11 Created: 2012-12-11 Last updated: 2012-12-11Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Constituting performance: Case studies of performance auditing and performance reporting
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Constituting performance: Case studies of performance auditing and performance reporting
2012 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this thesis is to problematize how and under what conditions organizational performance is constituted in the practices of performance auditing and accounting. Organizational performance disclosure is a world-wide phenomenon for enabling accountability relationships in large organizations regardless of the societal sector they operate in. In constitutive accounting literature, there is a well-established notion that accounting and performance auditing enable “government at a distance” by representing organizational actions and results of those actions, i.e. by constituting performance.  Accounting and performance auditing have been regarded as “technologies of government” that make government from spatial and temporal distances possible by linking political and programmatic ambitions, i.e., the will of a superior, to everyday organizational conduct. However, whereas many previous studies of accounting and performance auditing as technologies of government focus on the discourses over the technologies of accounting and performance auditing, this thesis focuses its analysis on the operationalization of these technologies in local organizational settings. By studying the constitution of performance in the practices of accounting and performance auditing this thesis contributes by problematizing that which supposedly makes government at a distance possible.

The thesis is based on two case studies of performance audit and two case studies of performance reporting. On the basis of these papers, the thesis studies the constitution of performance in performance auditing and accounting. Whereas the constitution of performance may seem stable and unproblematic at the level of discourse, this thesis suggests that constituting performance is a complex process of social construction that requires significant organizational efforts and that the ability of accounting and performance auditing to connect political and programmatic ambitions to daily organizational conduct cannot be taken for granted. The thesis suggest that once we acknowledge that performance is a socially constructed representation of organizational actions and begin to pay attention to how performance is constituted in local organizational settings, we can find new ways of addressing the ongoing challenge of constituting performance in accounting and performance auditing and increase our understanding about the ability of these practices to enable government at a distance. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: School of Business, Stockholm University, 2012. 81 p.
Keyword
Constituting performance, performance measurement, performance management, performance reporting, performance audit, performance standards, audit independence, accounting concepts, output, representation, government at a distance, social construction
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-83435 (URN)978-91-7447-615-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2013-01-18, Gröjersalen, hus 3, Kräftriket, Roslagsvägen 101, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of doctoral defence the following papers were unoublished and had a status as follows: Paper nr. 2: Manuscript; Paper nr. 3: Manuscript; Paper nr. 4: Manuscript

Available from: 2012-12-27 Created: 2012-12-11 Last updated: 2012-12-14Bibliographically approved

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