Before Audit : Essays on the necessity of imagination

Abstract: The audit society idea has radically influenced our conception of auditing with its critique of the functionalist view that sees auditing as an objective verification of steady facts. The audit society thesis argues that auditing is a ‘technology of representation’ and auditors are involved in the construction of facts they are supposed to verify. In this constructivist thesis, auditing is an undefinable ‘powerful vague idea’ that takes different forms depending on contexts. The present dissertation criticises this relativisation of the concept of auditing but agrees with the audit society idea about the representational ability of auditing. Adopting mimesis as a conceptual framework and drawing on the works of Aristotle, Derrida, Girard and Dupuy, the present dissertation advances a thesis that supplements the audit society idea by arguing that before being a ‘technology of representation’, auditing or rather the auditors’ role is to generate imaginary spaces for representation. The papers that constitute the dissertation show how these imaginary spaces are generated indicatively, counterfactually and heuristically through auditors’ enactment of a mediating and supplementary role in relation to the capital market and accounting representation. In the present dissertation, auditors verify a reality that is impossible to represent in the physical space by recontextualising it to generated imaginary worlds that can take the form of (i) an ‘existential’ space that allows for the neutralisation of [the struggles of] politics, and for social actors to find meaning for their subjectivity, (ii) a space for the stabilisation of a realisable vision that links the future with its past, and (iii) a space for making the practice of certification of accounting representation possible. By highlighting the imaginary, which can be conceived as a world of possibilities that are in effect real conditions for fact construction, the present thesis makes possible a reconciliation between the opposing functionalist and constructive perspectives on auditing.