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Neoliberalism, crises and accusations of fraud: a vicious circle of reinforcing influences?

Henri Guénin-Paracini (Faculté des sciences de l’administration, Université Laval, Québec City, Canada)
Yves Gendron (Faculté des sciences de l’administration, Université Laval, Québec City, Canada)
Jérémy Morales (Département C.P.O., ESCP Europe, Paris, France)

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management

ISSN: 1176-6093

Article publication date: 11 November 2014




This paper aims to better understand why neoliberal governance is so resilient to the crises that frequently affect all or part of the economy.


The argument of this paper relies on a macroanalysis of discourses surrounding the Global Financial Crisis.


Drawing on Girard and Foucault’s work, this paper argues that the resilience of neoliberalism partly ensues from the proclivity of this mode of governing to foster, for reasons that this paper seeks to highlight, spontaneous and widespread processes of scapegoating in times of turmoil. As a consequence of these processes, crises often are collectively construed as resulting from frauds: the blame is focused on specific actors whose lack of morality is denounced, and this individualizing line of interpretation protects the regime from systemic questioning.

Practical, social and political implications

Particular actors, rather than the system itself, are made accountable when things go wrong. Consequences are paramount. Today’s political economy is characterized with a proclivity toward social reproduction. While substantive change is possible in theory, considerable challenges are involved in practice in overcoming the dominance of neoliberalism in society.


Although Girard’s work has exerted significant influence over a number of disciplines in the social sciences, his ideas have not yet been widely used in governance and accountability-related research. Anthropological theorizations – such as those proposed by Girard – are valuable in providing us with a sense of how power develops in the economy.



The authors benefited from the comments made by David Cooper, Aziza Laguecir, Andrea Mennicken, Don Palmer, Vaughan Radcliffe and Steven Salterio. They also acknowledge the comments from participants at the 2012 Alternative Accounts Conference (Québec City), 2011 Fraud in Accounting, Organizations and Society Conference (London), and the 2011 Annual Congress of the European Accounting Association (Rome). Finally, they gratefully salute the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and of the Faculté des sciences de l’administration, Université Laval.


Guénin-Paracini, H., Gendron, Y. and Morales, J. (2014), "Neoliberalism, crises and accusations of fraud: a vicious circle of reinforcing influences?", Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. 11 No. 4, pp. 317-356.



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