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Vulgate accountability: insights from the field of football

Christine Cooper (Department of Accounting and Finance, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK)
Joanne Johnston (Department of Accounting and Finance, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 4 May 2012




The purpose of this paper is to critically reflect upon the use of the term accountability in the twenty‐first century and its role in “remaking the world in favour of the most powerful” using the theories of Pierre Bourdieu and Jacques Lacan.


The paper examines the notion of accountability by analyzing a case study of the hostile takeover of Manchester United Football Club by the Glazer family. The field of football presents an interesting arena in which to study accountability because of its extremely interested and active fans who search for information on every aspect of their clubs. Lacanian theory is drawn upon to add to understanding of the psychopathology which the demands for accountability and transparency place on individuals. Bourdieu's work on illusio is drawn upon to understand the motivations of the field of football.


The paper finds that calls to “hold the most powerful to account” in practice lack political force. Thus the case study demonstrates the common (mis)recognition of the term of accountability. The ability to correct the abuses of the most powerful requires power.


The conflation of Bourdieu and Lacan adds to understanding of accountability as an empty cipher with performative power.



Cooper, C. and Johnston, J. (2012), "Vulgate accountability: insights from the field of football", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 25 No. 4, pp. 602-634.



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