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Accounting for play as work in The Expense Account

Lauren Schrock (Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK)

Qualitative Research in Financial Markets

ISSN: 1755-4179

Article publication date: 14 August 2018

Issue publication date: 22 August 2018




This paper aims to examine how and why finance is represented in cultural products. Focussing on an illustration by Norman Rockwell for the cover of The Saturday Evening Post, this analysis suggests that financialization is represented through the technique of visually incongruent humour. Humour relays the cultural value of the separation of work and play, and financialization is a tool to make sense of play as work. Addressing why certain financial representations are produced highlights the influence of finance in determining how and what messages about financialization are made public. This analysis of a single illustration suggests a need for further research into comparative and contextual studies of culture and finance.


This paper is a qualitative analysis of The Expense Account (1957), a cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post.


In analysing the visually incongruent humour of the illustration, the cultural value of the separation of work and play is muddied by the lack of supervision and undefined organizational space. Freedom of travel and lack of managerial presence suggest that travelling salesmen face anxiety and uncertainty in having to account for their fun activities as work. Accounting is one tool of financialization used to interpret play as work by employees. This illustration was produced in a for-profit context and was therefore influenced by the financial decisions of magazine editors and customers.

Practical implications

Interdisciplinary qualitative analysis of finance and humorous popular cultural images suggests that accounting is a financial tool for making sense of play as work outside fixed organizational spaces. Additional support is given for studying popular culture and finance together, as popular culture is produced within a financial system in which financial decisions determine humorous representations of financialization.


This paper adopts a financial perspective in examining a Norman Rockwell illustration and makes the case for examining how representations of financialization are made by humour and financial influence.



Schrock, L. (2018), "Accounting for play as work in The Expense Account", Qualitative Research in Financial Markets, Vol. 10 No. 3, pp. 254-264.



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