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Article
Publication date: 8 July 2021

Valerio Antonelli, Michele Bigoni, Warwick Funnell and Emanuela Mattia Cafaro

The paper examines how accounting and accounting experts provided important contributions to the Italian government's strategy to address the COVID-19 emergency in 2020…

Abstract

Purpose

The paper examines how accounting and accounting experts provided important contributions to the Italian government's strategy to address the COVID-19 emergency in 2020, especially in terms of implementing new rules of conduct and providing justification for penetrating interventions in the life of individuals.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper adopts an interdisciplinary approach by drawing upon Agamben's concepts of the state of exception, bare life and biosecurity to understand the purposes of the decrees issued by the Italian government and data provided to the citizens in the “daily bulletin” on the crisis by the Civil Protection Department.

Findings

Accounting data provided essential contributions to the government's strategy that sought to spread disquiet and uncertainty in the population to ensure compliance with the strict rules in place, thereby sustaining the management of the country under a state of exception.

Social implications

The study draws attention to the way in which accounting provides justification for measures that are promoted as provisional but which have enduring effects, most importantly the ability of governments in the future to suspend the rights of individuals. It shows how accounting can influence people's behaviour and contribute to the development of a permanent state of exception that significantly increases government prerogatives.

Originality/value

The work contributes to the literature on accounting and emergencies by studying the use of accounting information as a subtle means to ensure support for extreme government actions and ultimately as a political tool that promotes biosecurity as a new government paradigm.

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: 23 February 2021

Michele Bigoni, Valerio Antonelli, Warwick Funnell and Emanuela Mattia Cafaro

The study investigates the use of accounting information in the form of a confession as a tool for telling the truth about oneself and reinforcing power relations in the…

Abstract

Purpose

The study investigates the use of accounting information in the form of a confession as a tool for telling the truth about oneself and reinforcing power relations in the context of the Roman Inquisition.

Design/methodology/approach

The study adopts Foucault's understanding of pastoral power, confession and truth-telling to analyse the accounting practices of the Tribunal of the Inquisition in the 16th century Dukedom of Ferrara.

Findings

Detailed accounting books were not simply a means for pursuing an efficient use of resources, but a tool to force the Inquisitor to open his conscience and provide an account of his actions to his superiors. Accounting practices were an identifying and subjectifying practice which helped the Inquisitor to shape his Christian identity and internalise self-discipline. This in turn reinforced the centralisation of the power of the Church at a time of great crisis.

Research limitations/implications

The use of accounting for forcing individuals to tell the truth about themselves can inform investigations into the use of accounting records as confessional tools in different contexts, especially when a religious institution seeks to reinforce its power.

Social implications

The study documents the important but less discernible contributions of accounting to the formation of Western subjectivity at a time which Foucault considers critical in the development of modern governmental practices.

Originality/value

The study considers a critical but unexplored episode in Western religious history. It offers an investigation of the macro impact of religion on accounting practices. It also adds to the literature recognising the confessional properties of written information by explicitly focusing on the use of financial information as a form of confession that has profound power implications.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 34 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 28 August 2018

Valerio Antonelli, Raffaele D’Alessio, Roberto Rossi and Warwick Funnell

The purpose of this paper is to identify the significant role of accounting in the expropriation of Jewish real estate after the enforcement of race laws under Benito…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to identify the significant role of accounting in the expropriation of Jewish real estate after the enforcement of race laws under Benito Mussolini’s Fascist regime in Italy.

Design/methodology/approach

Hannah Arendt’s understanding of government bureaucracy in the twentieth century totalitarian regimes informs the research which draws upon a wide range of primary sources.

Findings

Implementation of the program of expropriation was the responsibility of a government body, EGELI, which was created specifically for this purpose. The language of accounting provided the means to disguise the nature and brutality of the process and allow bureaucrats to be removed from the consequences of their actions. Accounting reports from EGELI to the Ministry of Finance confirmed each year that those who worked in EGELI were devoted to its mission as an agency of the Fascist State.

Research limitations/implications

The findings of this study recognize the need for further research on the role played by servicemen, bureaucrats and accounting as a technology of government in the deportation of Italian Jews to Germany. The study also provides impetus to examine how other countries managed the properties confiscated or expropriated from the Jews in the earlier stages of the Final Solution.

Originality/value

The study is the first to identify the significant role played by accounting and accountants in the persecution of Italian Jews under the Fascism.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 31 no. 8
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

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Article
Publication date: 19 June 2017

Warwick Funnell, Valerio Antonelli, Raffaele D’Alessio and Roberto Rossi

The purpose of this paper is to understand the role played by accounting in managing an early nineteenth century lunatic asylum in Palermo, Italy.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to understand the role played by accounting in managing an early nineteenth century lunatic asylum in Palermo, Italy.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper is informed by Foucault’s studies of lunatic asylums and his work on governmentality which gave prominence to the role of statistics, the “science of the State”.

Findings

This paper identifies a number of roles played by accounting in the management of the lunatic asylum studied. Most importantly, information which formed the basis of accounting reports was used to describe, classify and give visibility and measurability to the “deviance” of the insane. It also legitimated the role played by lunatic asylums, as entrusted to them in post-Napoleonic early nineteenth century society, and was a tool to mediate with the public authorities to provide adequate resources for the institution to operate.

Research limitations/implications

This paper encourages accounting scholars to engage more widely with socio-historical research that will encompass organisations such as lunatic asylums.

Originality/value

This paper provides, for the first time, a case of accounting applied to a lunatic asylum from a socio-historical perspective.

Details

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, vol. 30 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-3574

Keywords

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