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Tacit coordination as a background practice to accounting practices – reflections on Vollmer’s case for a sociological super-theory of accounting

Thomas Ahrens (Department of Accounting and Finance, United Arab Emirates University, Al Ain, United Arab Emirates)

Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management

ISSN: 1176-6093

Article publication date: 26 April 2022




The purpose of this paper is primarily methodological. This paper aims to complement the novel sociological argument of Hendrik Vollmer’s paper on tacit coordination of accounting practices with a more familiar theory of accounting practice nexuses that has been stimulating an emerging stream of accounting research. The intention is to suggest some ways in which Vollmer’s ideas can be given traction, especially in field studies of accounting.


This study uses Theodore Schatzki’s practice theory to explore some of the ways in which elements of tacit coordination might be researched in accounting field studies.


Tacit coordination can be understood as a background practice that could operate as a dispersed practice in Schatzki’s sense. A practice theory perspective on tacit coordination is suggestive of a number of ways of studying the meaningful cultural contexts as part of which accounting operates. It emphasises, in particular, the active nature of silent, tacit coordination; attending to general knowledge practical know-how, rules and teleoaffectivity as four determinants of practices as specified by Schatzki; and the materiality of coordination.

Research limitations/implications

It has implications for field research insofar as it heightens the researcher’s awareness of tacit coordination as a potentially important set of practices and suggests a number of approaches for studying them. The main suggestions address some of the ways in which tacit coordination can be identified in field research.


This study reflects on the dispersed or integrated nature of tacit coordination practices in accounting.



The author is grateful to Hendrik Vollmer and the other participants of the QRAM workshop, held online in October 2021, at which the implications of Vollmer (2019) were discussed. The author also acknowledges the constructive comments of two anonymous reviewers.


Ahrens, T. (2022), "Tacit coordination as a background practice to accounting practices – reflections on Vollmer’s case for a sociological super-theory of accounting", Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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