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Article
Publication date: 31 May 2019

Laura Maran, Warwick Funnell and Monia Castellini

The purpose of this paper is to understand the enduring, fundamental contributions of accounting practices in the pursuit of decentralization by governments, with an…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to understand the enduring, fundamental contributions of accounting practices in the pursuit of decentralization by governments, with an examination of Peter Leopold’s reform of the municipalities in the late eighteenth century in Italy.

Design/methodology/approach

An extensive textual analysis of the very comprehensive collection of primary sources of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany during the de’ Medici and Hapsburg-Lorraine’s rule identified the reasons for Peter Leopold’s decision to decentralize his government’s authority and responsibilities. A systemic comparison of the 1765–1766 and 1775–1776 financial reports of the Municipality of Castrocaro and Terra del Sole disclosed the importance of the micro-practices of accounting and reporting for the reform.

Findings

In the context of the eighteenth century enlightenment, Peter Leopold legitimized his reform by the introduction of a modern style of government based on the rationalization of the municipal administrative system and decentralization of central authority and responsibility. The reform was made feasible by the substitution of a birth right principle with an economic discourse which linked tax payments to property ownership. This had the unintended consequence of increased taxes, higher municipal expenditures and possible inequalities between municipalities.

Research limitations/implications

The findings of the study are dependent on the resources which have survived and are now preserved in the official archives of Galeata and Florence. This work contributes to the extant literature on administrative reforms in a crucial period for the redefinition of sovereignty by the ruling classes, with the rise of the modern State. It extends historical understanding of the public sector with a focus on local government in the eighteenth century in a non-Anglo-Saxon context.

Practical implications

The examination of the reform of Peter Leopold contributes to an enhanced understanding of present-day decentralization by governments in the context of the new public management (NPM). It provides to NPM advocates a broader temporal and contextual understanding of the impact of current decentralization reforms.

Originality/value

Few accounting studies have considered the micro-aspects of decentralization reforms at the municipal level and tried to identify their impact on the wealth of the population. Moreover, Peter Leopold’s reform is considered one of the most innovative and enlightened of the eighteenth century, while the remainder of Europe was still overwhelmingly committed to the centralization of administrative apparatuses. Finally, this study relates to the multi-disciplinary debate about the recognition, qualification and accountization of the impact of decentralization of responsibility for the delivery of government services.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 32 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 17 December 2019

Tiziana Di Cimbrini, Warwick Funnell, Michele Bigoni, Stefania Migliori and Augusta Consorti

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…

Abstract

Purpose

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.

Design/methodology/approach

The study adopts the Foucauldian theoretical framework of governmentality and a comparative approach to highlight similarities and differences between the two regions.

Findings

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.

Research limitations/implications

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.

Social implications

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.

Originality/value

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.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 33 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 29 April 2021

Mona Nikidehaghani and Corinne Cortese

The purpose of this paper is to critique the Australian Government's JobKeeper scheme and demonstrate how accounting rationalities were intertwined with the process of

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to critique the Australian Government's JobKeeper scheme and demonstrate how accounting rationalities were intertwined with the process of governing the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Design/methodology/approach

Adopting a Foucauldian perspective, the authors make use of public discourse to draw attention to the centrality of accounting and quantitative techniques that were used to support government interventions during the pandemic.

Findings

The authors show that accounting numbers, techniques and quantitative information were mobilised by the government as a way of formulating and implementing the JobKeeper scheme, a program designed to minimise the economic impacts of COVID-19.

Originality/value

The authors demonstrate the centrality of accounting concepts as a rhetorical device and their use by government in times of crisis.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. ahead-of-print no. ahead-of-print
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 27 October 2020

Michele Bigoni, Warwick Funnell, Enrico Deidda Gagliardo and Mariarita Pierotti

The study focusses on the complex interaction between ideological beliefs, culture and accounting by identifying during Benito Mussolini's time in power the contributions…

Abstract

Purpose

The study focusses on the complex interaction between ideological beliefs, culture and accounting by identifying during Benito Mussolini's time in power the contributions of accounting to the Italian Fascist repertoire of power in the cultural domain. It emphasises the importance of accounting in making the Alla Scala Opera House in Milan a vital institution in the creation of a Fascist national culture and identity which was meant to define the Fascist “Ethical State”.

Design/methodology/approach

The study adopts the Foucauldian concept of discourse in analysing the accounting practices of the Alla Scala Opera House.

Findings

Financial statements and related commentaries prepared by the Alla Scala Opera House were not primarily for ensuring good management and the minimisation of public funding in contrast to the practices and expectations of accounting in liberal States. Instead, the dominant Fascist discourse shaped the content and use of accounting and ensured that accounting practices could be a means to construct the Opera House as a “moral individual” that was to serve wider national interests consistent with the priorities of the Fascist Ethical State.

Research limitations/implications

The study identifies how accounting can be mobilised for ideological purposes in different ways which are not limited to supporting discourses inspired by logics of efficiency and profit. The paper also draws attention to the contributions of accounting discourses in shaping the identity of an organisation consistent with the priorities of those who hold the supreme authority in a society.

Social implications

The analysis of how the Fascist State sought to reinforce its power by making cultural institutions a critical part of this process provides the means to understand and unmask the taken-for-granted way in which discourses are created to promote power relations and related interests such as in the rise of far-right movements, most especially in weaker and more vulnerable countries at present.

Originality/value

Unlike most of the work on the relationship between culture and accounting which has emphasised liberal States, this study considers a non-liberal State and documents a use of accounting in the cultural domain which was not limited to promoting efficiency consistent with the priorities now recognised more recently of the New Public Management. It presents a micro-perspective on accounting as an ideological discourse by investigating the role of accounting in the exploitation of a cultural institution for political purposes.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 34 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

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