Public Accounting Reforms and the Discursive Construction of Fiscal Geographies

Authors: Sofrony Riedmann*, Goethe University Frankfurt
Topics: Political Geography, Economic Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: accounting, austerity, fiscal crises
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Grand Ballroom D, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

From a Critical Accounting perspective it is argued that accounting techniques do not come into effect via mechanisms of subjectification and/or performativity alone. Not only do accounting techniques restructure society on the level of the individuum or an organization. It is also the broader social context that needs to be considered as it is there that the discursive or epistemic power of accounting is deeply interwoven with the construction of hegemonic discourses (Chiapello 2017).
By reference to two public accounting reforms I will argue that accounting is “always intrinsically linked to a particular strategic or programmatic ambition” (Miller 2004: 188). The first empirical case is the application of private sector accounting techniques in the municipalities in Germany which experience an increasing fiscal crisis due to tax breaks and other reasons. The second case is the development of European Public Sector Accounting Standards (EPSAS), initiated by the European Commission in 2011, during the European debt crisis. The analysis of central policy papers shows how new accounting techniques are a crucial element in avoiding a debate on distributional justice and uneven development (under capitalism). Rather, the fiscal crises of the public sector are rendered as a question of intergenerational justice in the first, and a question of national interest and national responsibility in the second case. Thereby, the development and implementation of post-neoliberal, more egalitarian fiscal regimes are effectively obstructed.

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