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Social accounting in the context of profound political, social and economic crisis: the case of the Arab Spring

Muhammad Al Mahameed (Department of Operations Management, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark)
Ataur Belal (Sheffield University Management School, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
Florian Gebreiter (Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK)
Alan Lowe (RMIT Business and Human Rights Centre, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 6 November 2020

Issue publication date: 7 June 2021




This paper explores how social accounting operates in the context of profound political, social and economic crises. Specifically, it examines how companies constructed strategies of action to produce and organise social accounting practices under different sociopolitical and economic contexts prior to and after the Arab Spring.


The paper draws on Swidler's theory of “Culture Toolkit” and 43 semi-structured interviews with 17 firms and their stakeholders in the Arab region.


The study argues that context influences social accounting practices by shaping a cultural toolkit of habits, skills and styles from which companies develop their social accounting related strategies of action. During “settled” periods, companies draw on resources to develop their social accounting practices whilst they seek knowledge and feedback on boundaries and expectations of the socio-political and economic contexts. During “unsettled” periods, companies begin to adopt highly organised meaning systems (i.e. ideologies) from which new ways and methods of social accounting practices are deployed.


The paper contributes to the extant literature by providing insights into social accounting practices in the under-explored context of the profound political, social and economic crises that followed the Arab Spring. In addition, we introduce Swidler's Culture Toolkit theory to the accounting literature.



The authors would like to acknowledge cooperation extended by the participants of this study. Earlier versions of the paper were presented at the CSEAR, UK Conference, St Andrews, August, 2017; IPA Conference, Edinburgh, 2018 and APIRA Conference, Auckland, July, 2019. Thanks to the participants for their comments on the paper. The authors also would like to thank the reviewers of this paper for their helpful comments. Usual disclaimer applies.


Al Mahameed, M., Belal, A., Gebreiter, F. and Lowe, A. (2021), "Social accounting in the context of profound political, social and economic crisis: the case of the Arab Spring", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 34 No. 5, pp. 1080-1108.



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