Professional service firms, globalisation and the new imperialism

Mehdi Boussebaa (School of Management, University of Bath, Bath, UK)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Publication date: 19 October 2015



The purpose of this paper is to draw critical accounting research to ground the study of globalising of professional service firms (GPSFs) more firmly in the history and actuality of imperialism. In so doing, the paper also helps in forging a stronger connection between accounting scholarship and interdisciplinary GPSF-focused debates in the wider field of management and organisation studies (MOS).


This is a desk-based study, analysing the globalisation of professional service firms through the lens of imperialism via an exploration of relevant research on the accounting profession.


The analysis sheds light on the link between GPSFs and contemporary imperialism. In particular, it shows how the organisation of GPSFs (re)produces core-periphery relations in the modern world economy and how this is facilitated and reinforced by universalisation efforts on the part of the firms’ core offices. The paper also highlights the role of local professionals in both enabling and resisting GPSF domination.

Research limitations/implications

One main implication of this paper is that the organisational nature and societal impact of GPSFs (and the professions more generally) are further illuminated. The paper deepens understanding of GPSFs’ role in (re)producing global inequalities and colonial-style power relations in a supposedly post-imperial world and calls for a reconceptualisation of these firms as agents of imperialism. In so doing, the paper also opens new avenues for future research on the organisation of GPSFs and on their impact on societies worldwide.


This is the first attempt to draw together critical accounting studies of globalisation with research GPSFs in the generalist field of MOS. In so doing, it contributes to a cross-fertilisation of the two fields and helps in making the former more central to ongoing debates in the latter. The paper also contributes to the emerging body of post-colonial theorising in MOS by shedding light on the crucial role of professional service firms in (re)producing imperialism in the modern world economy.



Boussebaa, M. (2015), "Professional service firms, globalisation and the new imperialism", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 28 No. 8, pp. 1217-1233.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below

You may be able to access this content by logging in via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.
If you think you should have access to this content, click the button to contact our support team.