Articles

Criticisms of capitalism, budgeting and the double enrolment: Budgetary control rhetoric and social reform in France in the 1930s and 1950s

E. CHIAPELLO, N. Berland

Accounting Organizations and Society

January 2009, vol. 34, n°1, pp.28-57

Departments: Accounting & Management Control


This article is a contribution to the study of the spread of management innovations, methods and rhetorics. It particularly concerns the influence of ideological and political factors, which have so far mostly escaped in-depth study. In particular, we seek to understand to what extent a critique of society developed by social reformers can be a source of inspiration for managers, leading them to change their practices and experiment with new devices. Relying on the framework of historical change in management practices developed by Boltanski and Chiapello [Boltanski, L., & Chiapello, E. (2005). The new spirit of capitalism. London: Verso (Translation of Le nouvel esprit du capitalisme, Paris: Gallimard, 1999)], we study the specific development of budgetary control in France, examined in the light of the general political and economic history of the 20th century. This framework simultaneously encompasses the dissemination of a new accounting practice, the transformation of capitalist institutions and mo des of regulation in a given period and country, and the programmatic discourses [Miller, P., & Rose, N. (1990). Governing economic life. Economy and Society, 19(1), 1'31] associated with the historical move.More exactly, what interests us is a double enrolment process. The business world promoters of budgetary control use the rhetorics of social reformers to present budgetary control as a solution to the economic and social problems of their time; conversely, social reformers promote budgetary control as a realistic, efficient tool that can change the world. Ultimately, a degree of alliance is possible around this management tool, although the extent to which the meanings each group attributes to its action are shared may remain unclear. Based on an analysis of the writings of budgetary control promoters of the 1930s and the 1950s, we show the close links between their discourse and the reforming ideas of their time, and how we can trace through this corpus the evolution of this kind of political rationalities [Miller, P., & Rose, N. (1990). Governing economic life. Economy and Society, 19(1), 1'31] associated with governing and managing corporations we call the spirit of capitalism [Boltanski, L., & Chiapello, E. (2005). The new spirit of capitalism. London: Verso (Translation of Le nouvel esprit du capitalisme, Paris: Gallimard, 1999)].


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