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Accounting for non-financial matters: technologies of humility as a means for developing critical dialogic accounting and accountability

Judy Brown (School of Accounting and Commercial Law, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)
Jesse Dillard (School of Accounting and Commercial Law, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand and College of Business Administration, University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida, USA)

Meditari Accountancy Research

ISSN: 2049-372X

Article publication date: 14 October 2020

Issue publication date: 21 June 2021

293

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present an expanded introduction of Jasanoff’s (2003, 2007) work on “technologies of humility” to the accounting literature and to show how it can be useful in developing critical dialogic accountings for non-financial matters.

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing on Jasanoff’s (2003, 2007) distinction between “technologies of hubris” and “technologies of humility”, this study extends prior research on critical dialogic accounting and accountability (CDAA) that seeks to “take pluralism seriously” (Brown, 2009; Dillard and Vinnari, 2019). This study shows how Jasanoff’s work facilitates constructing critical, reflexive approaches to accounting for non-financial matters consistent with agonistics-based CDAA.

Findings

Jasanoff’s four proposed focal points for developing new analytical tools for accounting for non-financial matters and promoting participatory governance – framing, vulnerability, distribution and learning – are argued to be useful in conceptualising possible CDAA technologies. These aspects are all currently ignored or downplayed in conventional approaches to accounting for non-financial matters, limiting accounting’s ability to promote more socially just and ecologically sustainable societies.

Originality/value

The authors introduce Jasanoff’s work on technologies of humility to show how CDAA, informed by Jasanoff’s proposed focal points, can help to expose controversial issues that powerful interests prefer to obscure, to surface the normative foundations of technocratic analytic methods, to address the need for plural perspectives and social learning and to bring all these aspects “into the dynamics of democratic debate” (Jasanoff, 2003, p. 240). As such, they provide criteria for constructing accounting technology consistent with agonistics-based CDAA.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank the Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fund for supporting this research as part of a funded project on “Dialogic Accounting: The Challenge of Taking Multiple Perspectives Seriously”, Contract No. VUW1011. The authors also wish to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper.

Citation

Brown, J. and Dillard, J. (2021), "Accounting for non-financial matters: technologies of humility as a means for developing critical dialogic accounting and accountability", Meditari Accountancy Research, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 197-218. https://doi.org/10.1108/MEDAR-01-2020-0692

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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