Corporate propaganda: its implications for accounting and accountability

David J. Collison (Department of Accountancy and Business Finance, University of Dundee, Dundee, UK)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Publication date: 1 December 2003


This paper examines the nature of propaganda and its use by corporations, particularly in the USA, over a period of nearly 100 years. It emphasises the invisibility of much of this activity and propaganda’s importance for shaping acquiescence in corporate hegemony. The role played by corporate propaganda in the development of different forms of capitalism is addressed. The inculcation of accounting and finance students with values that serve corporate interests is considered: in this context propaganda is inferred in both the longstanding misrepresentation of Adam Smith, and the sustained illusion of competitive “free markets”. The role and language of the business media as a form of propaganda is considered, particularly regarding colonisation of social market economies by Anglo‐Saxon capitalism, which takes as incontestable the maximisation of shareholder value as the proper and necessary aim of corporate activity. It is argued that corporate propaganda has contributed to the accounting measure of business success being justified as an end in itself at the explicit expense of wider societal considerations.



Collison, D.J. (2003), "Corporate propaganda: its implications for accounting and accountability", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 16 No. 5, pp. 853-886.

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