Accounting and the Virtues of Anarchy

By Funnell, Warwick | Australasian Accounting Business & Finance Journal, February 2007 | Go to article overview

Accounting and the Virtues of Anarchy


Funnell, Warwick, Australasian Accounting Business & Finance Journal


ABSTRACT

The ability of accounting to be used for the purposes of economic, social and political oppression is now well recognised in the critical accounting literature. Accounting is far more than an innocuous technology of rational calculation and accountability upon which management and the efficient operation of markets depend. Its contributions to maintaining the hegemony of the state are primarily through its close association with the protection and promotion of property rights. For the anarchist this relationship is the source of entrenched injustice which alienates individuals from their fundamental, moral nature. Elimination of the state allows justice to be reasserted and society to operate on moral principles. When the very existence of the state is questioned, as does anarchism, understanding of the fundamental nature and contributions of accounting need to be renegotiated.

Key Words: anarchism; state; property; entitlement; justice

INTRODUCTION

Much of the attention of critical accounting researchers has been directed towards the relationship between accounting and structures of power and influence in the modern capitalist state. Bryer's (1991) identification of the way in which accounting reports were used to manipulate ownership of early British railways is a particularly good example of how accounting can be used to maintain entrenched power structures. Foucauldian researchers have demonstrated the ability of accounting to be harnessed by powerful elites to discipline and control behaviour in subtle and ultimately unrealised ways (Hoskin and Macve 1986; Loft 1986; Armstrong 1991; Stewart 1992; Miller and O'Leary 1987). While there has been in this research considerable criticism of the modern capitalist state and the social problems which it perpetuates, to question the need for the state to exist has mostly escaped the attention of critical accounting researchers. As an exception, research emerging on First Nations (Preston and Oakes 2001; Neu 2000; Gibson 2000; Chew and Greer 1997) has provided important insights into alternative modes of social organisation which are possible without the centralised institutions of the modern state. Classical anarchists of the 19th century were not intimidated by the apparent naturalness of the state and refused to be constrained by the loneliness of their cause or the likelihood of ridicule. Anarchists sought to free society of the injustices and oppression permitted in the name of the state and to provide the circumstances which would allow the essential moral nature of individuals to be released (Kropotkin 1946, pp.42-3). Anarchism dismisses the relevance and legitimacy of the state, at the same time substituting a new set of exchange relationships and reasserting a long-forgotten morality to govern these relationships.

Through an examination of 19th century anarchism, mainly the mutualist form proposed by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865) and Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921), this paper seeks to explore the reflexive relationship that accounting has with social and political structures which perpetuate advantage and privilege and which in turn sustain accounting. By stripping away the superstructure of markets and the capitalist state, as required by most forms of anarchism, the ways in which these institutions are reliant upon accounting and their contributions to accounting's legitimacy are starkly illuminated. In particular, if there are no governments or social institutions to nurture capitalist markets and to offer guarantees that property rights will be respected by others then the value of property is immediately brought into question. In the absence of property rights it is also unlikely that there will be the need for any sophisticated, enduring forms of accounting which provide the means to verify and enforce property claims between individuals as a result of exchanges and bargains.

THE MORALITY OF ANARCHISM

It was not until the convergence of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution in the late 18th century that coherent theories of anarchism were developed to challenge the established order. …

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 ...
Default project is now your active project.
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

Accounting and the Virtues of Anarchy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
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.