While intellectual capital (IC) accounting research has concentrated on private enterprise, it is also germane to the public sector given pressures to create government business enterprises. However, despite the impetus for change, IC accounting is not a widespread practice in any sector. To understand the paradox, the purpose of this paper is to present a longitudinal narrative of IC accounting practice at an Australian public sector organisation.
Bourdieu’s theory of practice is adopted in a single longitudinal case study to examine orthodox and heterodox accounting processes along with the resultant “field of opinion” created by IC discourse.
For an innovation such as IC accounting to be utilised, the social capital associated with it must be able to overcome the symbolic violence of orthodox financial accounting practices. In essence, IC exists alongside accounting and does not replace it. However, not all actors learn about and adopt IC in the same way. Therefore, organisations cannot learn if the actors themselves cannot see how IC should not replace accounting but exists alongside it.
On reflection, the study supports a conclusion that IC should not be viewed as a heretical accounting practice. Rather, it serves discrete purposes that can be utilised by academics and practitioners to achieve particular ends rather than viewed as an alternative form of accounting.
With increasing awareness of accounting of the importance of intangible resources in the “new economy”, this study emphasises the teleological aims of IC as a complementary accounting technology.
Dumay, J. and Rooney, J. (2018), "Overcoming the symbolic violence of orthodox accounting practice: an intellectual capital perspective", Journal of Intellectual Capital, Vol. 19 No. 2, pp. 248-271. https://doi.org/10.1108/JIC-02-2017-0026Download as .RIS
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