The Geography and Ideology of Accounting: A Case Study of Domination and Accounting in a Sugar Refinery in Australasia, 1900-1920

By Hooks, Jill J.; Stewart, Ross E. | Accounting Historians Journal, December 2007 | Go to article overview

The Geography and Ideology of Accounting: A Case Study of Domination and Accounting in a Sugar Refinery in Australasia, 1900-1920


Hooks, Jill J., Stewart, Ross E., Accounting Historians Journal


Abstract: This historical case study examines accounting in a sugar refinery from 1900 to 1920 in two arenas of operation. The geography of accounting enabled the workers at Chelsea to have their working experience sequestered by the company. Accounting routinized their work at the refinery, enabling their labor to become monitored, empty of meaning, and, at times, overwhelming. The ideology of accounting provided the company with an instrument of evasion to silence the voice of labor and an instrument of self-deception designed to justify and insulate the authoritarian hierarchy of the company and the power of its Australian general manager, Edward Knox. Accounting became an ideology that sought to legitimate the exploitation of the workforce and the generous return to shareholders.

INTRODUCTION

This case study describes and interprets accounting practices situated in the New Zealand branch of an Australian company, the Colonial Sugar Refinery (CSR). Known as Chelsea sugar refinery and located in the Auckland suburb of Birkenhead, the New Zealand company was started by Australian and New Zealand investors in 1883. This historical study examines accounting in the company from 1900 to 1920, particularly the use of accounting as a tool of domination. We examine this domination in two dimensions--the geography and the ideology of accounting. We explore the geography or locale of accounting in terms of the physical distance between the head office (Sydney) and Auckland and at the level of production locally at the Chelsea refinery. The accounting records enabled an autocratic and authoritarian leader to control the branch with vigorous surveillance from Australia. The Australian head office was unwilling to delegate any significant influence to the managers of the branch company. Decision authority was, therefore, effectively based in Australia, and any semblance of delegated authority was in form rather than substance. The geography/locale of accounting at Chelsea enabled the workers to have their working experience sequestered by the company [Giddens, 1991, p 149]. Accounting routinized their work at the refinery, enabling their labor to become monitored, empty of meaning, and, at times, overwhelming. It was only when crises or fateful moments [Giddens, 1991, p. 202], such as on-the-job accidents or union activity, introduced a moral reckoning that the accounting regime of truth [Foucault, 1980] created around the labor process was disrupted. Labor and production processes provided the location for accounting to control and monitor the labor force, known as "wage labour." It also provided the opportunity for labor to collectively reappropriate its closely monitored existence.

The ideology of accounting provided the company with an instrument of evasion to silence the voice of labor and became an instrument of self-deception designed to justify and insulate the authoritarian hierarchy of the company and the power of its Australian general manager, Edward Knox (EK) [Volf, 1996]. Accounting became an ideology that sought to legitimate the exploitation of the workforce and the generous return to shareholders and played a key role in advancing the particular interests of Knox and facilitating domination.

Based on the two dimensions, this paper aims to examine the broader narratives in which the accounting numbers were placed. These accounting-based narratives enabled the autocratic control and surveillance of the labor force to be carried out with a semblance of objectivity which sought to diffuse its contested nature. The narratives created a regime of truth that not only justified the way the workforce was deployed and managed under the hubris of efficiency but also enabled the more powerful narrative of shareholder returns. In the end, the accounting-based narratives presented by the company assumed it could melt the differing points of view of labor opposition into the common currency of a single truth [Volf, 1996, p.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Geography and Ideology of Accounting: A Case Study of Domination and Accounting in a Sugar Refinery in Australasia, 1900-1920
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.