Making Accounting Matter : A Study of the Constitutive Practices of Accounting Framers

Abstract: The idea of accounting as a constitutive means, making people think and act in particular ways, is well established in the social strand of accounting literature. In professional organisations, for example, accounting is claimed to be critical to processes of turning people into rational and responsible economic actors. However, this thesis refocuses the empirical attention away from the organisation and into the private sphere of people’s everyday financial lives. As this is a field partly inhabited by people who for various reasons are believed to have difficulty in making sense of financial accounts, a dilemma arises regarding how to influence people’s way of managing their own finances by means of accounting information. How this dilemma is assumed to be resolved in order to make accounting matter is the query of this thesis. Through a study of four cases, the thesis investigates the practices of public authorities, a television makeover show, and a pension insurance company – here referred to as accounting framers – whose task it is to construct accounting in such a way so as to make it come across as important, relevant and useful to various groups of the general public. By examining how people’s accounting interpretations are elaborated in order to make them responsive to financial accounts, the thesis contributes to problematising the constitutive role of accounting and the conditions believed to enable it to turn people into financially responsible actors.