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Control, organization, and accounting: A genealogy of modern knowledge-power

Abstract

Much social scientizing tends to be ahistorical, particularly with regard to its fundamental terms and constructs, which are implicitly defined atemporally as simply “being there,” the givens of discourse. The history of two such terms, “control” and “organization,” is investigated here. In an elaboration of Foucault's idea of power-knowledge relations, a two-stage history of the terms is set out linked to the historical emergence of accounting. In the first stage, the initial invention of the terms in the thirteenth century is aligned with the contemporaneous invention of the doubleentry system, with all these innovations embodying a new power of writing. However the constructs only develop their modern significance as forms of knowledge-power at a much later stage, following the establishment of a “disciplinary” power-knowledge nexus post-1800. Under this interpretation, accounting, control, and organization, far from being ahistorical givens of discourse, are constructs which help establish the modern world of “disciplinary,” that site where the power of expert knowledge must operate.

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Hoskin, K. Control, organization, and accounting: A genealogy of modern knowledge-power. Systems Practice 5, 425–439 (1992). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01059833

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Key words

  • accounting
  • control
  • history
  • organization
  • power-knowledge