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The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of accounting in the enactment of the Napoleonic imperial project in Tuscany and the Kingdom of Naples in the early…
The purpose of this paper is to examine the role of accounting in the enactment of the Napoleonic imperial project in Tuscany and the Kingdom of Naples in the early nineteenth century.
The study adopts the Foucauldian theoretical framework of governmentality and a comparative approach to highlight similarities and differences between the two regions.
The presence of different cultural understandings and structures of power meant that in Tuscany accounting mirrored and reinforced the existing power structure, whereas in the Kingdom of Naples accounting practices were constitutive of power relations and acted as a compensatory mechanism. In the Kingdom of Naples, where local elites had been traditionally involved in ruling municipalities, control of accounting information and the use of resources “re-adjusted” the balance of power in favour of the French whilst letting local population believe that Napoleon was respectful of local customs.
The ability of accounting technologies to act as compensatory mechanisms within governmentality systems paves the way to further investigations about the relationships between accounting and other governmentality technologies as well as the adjustment mechanisms leading to accounting resilience in different contexts.
By identifying accounting as an adaptive instrument supporting less obvious practices of domination the study helps unmask a hidden mechanism underlying attempts to know, govern and control populations which still characterises modern forms of imperialism.
The comparative perspective leads to a new specification of the multifaceted roles that accounting plays in different cultural and political contexts in the achievement of the same set of imperial goals and enhances understanding of the translation of politics, rhetoric and power into a set of administrative tasks and calculative practices.