Michel Foucault reminds us that the most boring practices often play an unacknowledged but fundamental role in social life. This…is undoubtedly true of auditing.
This chapter is about the expansion of the ‘evaluative state’ (Neave 1998: also ‘enabling state’, Rose 1992, 1999) particularly as manifest in the new controls of higher education within the UK and the implications this has for professional identities. The intellectual inspiration for the chapter is Michael Power’s account of the ‘audit explosion’ (Power 1994), subsequently expanded by him into the concept of the ‘audit society’ (Power 1997). The concepts of ‘trust’ and ‘risk’ are central in Power’s account: the explosion of audit is a response to increasing actual or perceived risk and declining trust, not least trust in professionals. Thus, as well as about the ‘evaluative state’, the concept of ‘audit society’ also connects with the concept of ‘risk society’ (Beck 1992; Power 1994:3). 1
For Power, ‘The audit society by definition is one which has come to understand the solution to many of its problems in terms of audit’ (Power 1997:138; original emphasis). Thus it ‘is that many more individuals and organisations are coming to think of themselves as subjects of audit’ (Power 1994:5). It is important to see that Power uses the term audit in an extended sense:
the audit explosion is only in part a quantitative story of human and financial resources committed to audit land its extension into new fields. It also concerns a qualitative shift: the spread of a distinct mentality of administrative control, a pervasive logic which has a life over and above specific practices.