Knowing More as Knowing Less? Alternative Histories of Cost and Management Accounting in the U.S. and the U.K

By Hoskin, Keith W.; Macve, Richard H. | The Accounting Historians Journal, June 2000 | Go to article overview

Knowing More as Knowing Less? Alternative Histories of Cost and Management Accounting in the U.S. and the U.K


Hoskin, Keith W., Macve, Richard H., The Accounting Historians Journal


Abstract: In attempting to understand the genesis and scope of modern cost and management accounting systems, accounting historians adopting what has been labeled a "Foucauldian" approach have been rewriting the history of key 18th and 19th century developments in the U.K. and U.S. through new evidence, new interpretation, and a refocusing of attention on familiar events. This is a "disciplinary" history which sees modern cost and management accounting as articulating a new kind of "expert disciplinary knowledge," as well as exercising a "disciplinary power," in the construction of a new human accountability. However, this "disciplinary" view` has been challenged by more "economic rationalist" historians, e.g., Boyns and Edwards [1996] for the British Industrial Revolution and Tyson [1998] for the U.S., as being too narrowly concerned with labor control.

This paper takes up the gauntlet. It addresses the theoretical issues and seeks to clarify the import of the "disciplinary view" and its contribution to understanding how 19th century accounting practices shaped emerging managerial discourses, initially in the U.S. It argues that, until businesses adopted this new disciplinarity, there remained an absence of practices focused on calculating human performance, and accounting was not fully deployed to construct that system of "administrative coordination" [Chandler, 1977] which distinguishes modern management action and control.

INTRODUCTION

We are always rewriting the past, whether through new evidence, new interpretation, or a new focus on old overlooked events. Revisionism constitutes something newly read into some particular aspect of the past-a discovery of new evidence, a discerning of new patterns, a dislodging of old and cherished verities. But what is the knowledge gain? In the flux of such rewriting, and in the contest of ideas it necessarily entails, the quality of the new evidence and the plausibility of the supposed patterns discerned cannot but be questioned. Knowing more may disintegrate into knowing less; the loss of the cherished appraised as too high a price to pay.

We surmise that this is very much the situation currently with the history of cost and management accounting developments in the U.K. and U.S. during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Authors such as ourselves, so-called "Foucauldians,"' are caught up in just such a proliferation of rewriting. In our own view, we are caught in the process of refining and redefining Chandler's [1977] "visible hand" thesis at all three abovementioned levels-evidence, interpretation, and refocus.

First, we have added to the evidence that Chandler adduced for the genesis of modern management by revisiting the sites he identified where forms of administrative coordination were first developed. Chandler specified the Springfield Armory as the place where single-unit management was developed in the context of developing interchangeable-part manufacture, largely under the superintendency of Roswell Lee. We agree on the location, but find that administrative coordination was developed not as a response to the technical breakthrough but as a separate "disciplinary"z intervention. Further, credit is accorded not to Lee but to Daniel Tyler, whose systematic work study in 1832, "watch in hand," both identified the time that ought to be taken for each task in musket production and reengineered that production process as one of consecutive steps to be followed with minimal bottlenecks. The implementation of the Tyler-based approach from 1841 produced a new, managed manufacturing system [Hoskin and Macve, 1988, 1994a].

As we then pointed out, the practices deployed by Tyler in managing the production system-turning all performance into writing, subjecting it to close examination, and grading the outcomes-initiated a world where targets and results were endemically produced from the past into the future. These became internalized by being integrated into coordinated systems of activities, with individuals often provided piece-rate incentives and governed by strict factory time keeping. …

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

Knowing More as Knowing Less? Alternative Histories of Cost and Management Accounting in the U.S. and the U.K
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.