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Making Accounting Matter: A Study of the Constitutive Practices of Accounting Framers
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Business Studies. (Musica)
2012 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The idea of accounting as a constitutive means, making people think and act in particular ways, is well established in the social strand of accounting literature. In professional organisations, for example, accounting is claimed to be critical to processes of turning people into rational and responsible economic actors. However, this thesis refocuses the empirical attention away from the organisation and into the private sphere of people’s everyday financial lives. As this is a field partly inhabited by people who for various reasons are believed to have difficulty in making sense of financial accounts, a dilemma arises regarding how to influence people’s way of managing their own finances by means of accounting information. How this dilemma is assumed to be resolved in order to make accounting matter is the query of this thesis.

Through a study of four cases, the thesis investigates the practices of public authorities, a television makeover show, and a pension insurance company – here referred to as accounting framers – whose task it is to construct accounting in such a way so as to make it come across as important, relevant and useful to various groups of the general public. By examining how people’s accounting interpretations are elaborated in order to make them responsive to financial accounts, the thesis contributes to problematising the constitutive role of accounting and the conditions believed to enable it to turn people into financially responsible actors.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2012. , p. 53
Series
Doctoral thesis / Företagsekonomiska institutionen, Uppsala universitet, ISSN 1103-8454 ; 152
Keyword [en]
constitutive role, interpretation, accounting framer, private sphere, identification/design practices, representation, social construction
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Business Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-172680ISBN: 978-91-554-8366-1 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-172680DiVA: diva2:516670
Public defence
2012-06-08, Hörsal 2, Ekonomikum, Kyrkogårdsgatan 10, Uppsala, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2012-05-16 Created: 2012-04-12 Last updated: 2012-05-16Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Framing Financial Responsibility: An analysis of the limitations of accounting
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Framing Financial Responsibility: An analysis of the limitations of accounting
2011 (English)In: Critical Perspectives on Accounting, ISSN 1045-2354, E-ISSN 1095-9955, Vol. 22, no 6, p. 593-607Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In organisations, accounting—understood broadly as calculative practices—is claimed to serve as a critical vehicle when introducing forms of individual financial responsibility. Whereas most prior accounting research has been preoccupied with asserting this claim, this paper opens an opportunity to examine the limitations of accounting as a technology of responsibilisation. It does so by moving the empirical focus beyond the borders of people’s work settings and into the private sphere of everyday life, investigating governmental efforts to turn high school students into financially responsible citizens. The analysis, informed by framing theory, reveals that the efficiency of accounting is conditioned by people’s calculative understanding. Hence, in situations where individuals are expected to lack this basic calculative competency, accounting is presumed to be inappropriate as a means of introducing financial responsibility. This has implications for re-considering how the relation between accounting and responsibility is constituted.

National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Business Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-157122 (URN)10.1016/j.cpa.2011.03.001 (DOI)
Available from: 2011-08-16 Created: 2011-08-16 Last updated: 2017-12-08Bibliographically approved
2. Makeover Accounting: Investigating the Financial Edutainment of Everyday Life
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Makeover Accounting: Investigating the Financial Edutainment of Everyday Life
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The ability of accounting to produce effects has been widely acknowledged in accounting literature. This paper argues however that in order for accounting to have an impact on people, its numbers need to be interpretable by its intended users. But what happens in situations where people are considered as inhibited in reading and interpreting numbers? This paper investigates how accounting numbers are presented to individuals believed to be impaired in their ability to make sense of numerical figures. It does so by moving the empirical focus beyond the borders of the professional organisation and into the private sphere of everyday life, examining how a televised financial makeover show re-presents accounting information in order to turn its participants into financially responsible citizens. The paper’s empirical findings give reasons for problematising the conditions under which accounting is able to affect people, concluding that, without taking people’s ability to interpret numbers into account, the possibilities of the numbers having an impact on their users risk falling short.

Keyword
accounting interpretation, accounting re-presentations, signifying practices, financial edutainment, everyday life
National Category
Business Administration
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-172674 (URN)
Available from: 2012-04-12 Created: 2012-04-12 Last updated: 2012-05-14
3. Accounting for Inclusion: Constructing User Relevance to Private Investors
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Accounting for Inclusion: Constructing User Relevance to Private Investors
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The issue of how to comply with various needs for financial information is said to have low priority within the financial reporting field. Prior research has demonstrated that rather than aiming at including all sorts of potential users, standard setters for example tend to ignore and exclude everyone but the sophisticated ones. This paper, however, investigates the preparation of financial information intended to be used by different kinds of private investors, sophisticated as well as unsophisticated. Informed by categorisation theory, the paper examines the means whereby a pension insurance company determines how numbers and financial accounts need to be presented so as to come across as useful to different pension saver characters. The paper demonstrates how this inclusion dilemma is connected to practices of relevance building, and that relevance is assumed to be a question of individual sense-making and contextualisation. The paper’s findings problematise the influential power of accounting by implying that a direct impact of financial accounts cannot be taken for granted. Rather, in order for an account to have effects on its intended users, it is assumed that the account needs to be made relevant by means of re-moulding it in accordance with the specifics of its user.

Keyword
user inclusion/exclusion, financial communication, categorisation, relevance building, pension savers
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Business Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-172677 (URN)
Available from: 2012-04-12 Created: 2012-04-12 Last updated: 2012-05-14
4. Situating Financial Literacy
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Situating Financial Literacy
2016 (English)In: Critical Perspectives on Accounting, ISSN 1045-2354, E-ISSN 1095-9955, Vol. 25, no 1, p. 36-45Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper comments on the conceptualisation of financial literacy by investigating the way it is defined, problematised, and operationalised in efforts to overcome its perceived impediments. The backdrop of this study is the idea that the financial literacy movement goes hand in hand with the financialisation of society. By reporting from a study of practices of financial literacy, the aim is to problematise prior literature by disentangling the notion of financial literacy from the assumption of a singular capability that, when gained, automatically effects people’s financial practices. The paper draws on recent developments in literacy research, New Literacy Studies, and on its division between autonomous and ideological definitions of literacy. The empirical illustrations originate from efforts made to decrease financial illiteracy among Swedish adolescents and the demand for financial literacy in audit committees. Contrary to earlier studies, the paper demonstrates that financial literacy does not merely refer to an ostensive character that researchers may find lacking among marginalised actors in society. As such, financial literacy cannot be viewed as merely the ability to read and write finance and accounting. Instead, financial literacy is a concept that needs to be situated and studied in practice since what constitutes and applies to it varies with time and place.

Keyword
financial literacy, new literacy studies, situated practice, financial education, audit committees
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Business Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-172678 (URN)10.1016/j.cpa.2012.11.011 (DOI)000349568900005 ()
Available from: 2012-04-12 Created: 2012-04-12 Last updated: 2017-12-07Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
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