Writing Accounting and Management History. Insights from Unorthodox Music Historiography

By Zan, Luca | Accounting Historians Journal, December 2004 | Go to article overview

Writing Accounting and Management History. Insights from Unorthodox Music Historiography


Zan, Luca, Accounting Historians Journal


Focal text: Favaro, R. e Pestalozza, L. (a cura di), Storia delhi Musica (History of Music) (Milano, Nuova Carish, 1999)

Abstract: Few disciplines are probably more different than music and accounting. Nonetheless possible suggestions about historiography in accounting and management can be drawn from an innovative textbook on the history of music [Favaro and Pestalozza, 1999]. This is a rather unusual music history textbook. It has several distinguishing features which raise issues about: histories of the present, history and theory making, a non-linear sense of history, a social history of music, a pluralist view of genres, and a multi-geographical emphasis. These features have interesting parallels with accounting history and historiography.

'INTRO'

This paper focuses on the construction of disciplinary identity in accounting and management through their historiographies. It examines the process of structuring (and de-structuring) genres and speculates on some aspects of historiography, referring to differences in writing accounting and management history. Indeed, one of the major concerns of the paper is to explore the potential for variety in writing accounting history and exchanges between historiographies.

The pluralist approach adopted by the authors of the focal text suggests the possibility of exploring different fields in order to investigate debates in historiography. The aim is to transfer a similar discussion to accounting and management history. It may be the case that differences in historiographies within disciplines are so profound that comparing historiographies across disciplines is more productive. Indeed, it could be argued that historiographies per se, irrespective of the field they specifically address, tend to share some common epistemological features [Southgate, 1996; Fay et al, 1998].

Starting from the writer's bias and interests in 'extreme' management and accounting research (investigating management and accounting in unusual, anomalous space/time settings, particularly in proto-industrial institutions [Zan, 2004] and in art organizations [Zan, 2000, 2002]), a bridge between history, and art is proposed. In particular, music history and historiography will be drawn upon in search of possible implications, analogies and similarities that can be applied to management and accounting history. (1)

PLURALIST HISTORIOGRAPHY: AN EXAMPLE FROM MUSIC

In this sense, an interesting parallel is provided by a textbook on music history recently published in Italy [Favaro and Pestalozza, 1999]. In Table 1, a selection of the contents of this book is provided (for reasons of space, the structure of the contents has been compressed rather arbitrarily, according to some of the aspects that I wish to underscore). It is a rather unusual volume, with six distinguishing features. These are explored below.

Firstly, the most astonishing feature of Favaro and Pestalozza, as a history book is the fact that it begins with the most recent periods. Section one is focused on 1890-1999, and the first chapter is about current music and its antecedents around World War Two (a subheading referring to Italy focuses on "Music in the 1980's and 1990's", providing an "in-real-time" history). The subsequent sections go back to previous periods. By contrast, a more traditional music history narrative would present a standard periodization moving from the ancient and Middle Ages, the Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical periods, the Romantic era, to the 20th century (see for instance any internet site when searching 'music history'). As a teaching textbook for use within Conservatories, the unusual structure adopted by Favaro and Pestalozza seems to be effective. Indeed one of the problems encountered with history textbooks in general is that the last chapters (which tend to mark discontinuity and periodizations between different class levels) are often overlooked because of lack of time. …

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